ASBESTOS – Local 480 helps shed light on ‘silent killer’

Doug Jones to speak at documentary screening today in Vancouver

Spreading the word of Trail’s efforts to end production of the “silent killer” and compensate workers for asbestos-related illnesses, the president of the local United Steelworkers will speak at a special screening of a new documentary in Vancouver today.

“Breathtaking,” created by Canadian filmmaker Kathleen Mullen, tells the story of the director’s personal journey into the Canadian Asbestos industry following the death of her father to Mesothelioma – cancer caused by exposure to asbestos -ñ in 2003.

In recognition of Injured Workers’ Day that passed on June 1, the B.C.

Federation of Labour and Toxic Free Canada invited the public to the exclusive screening.

This film strikes a chord with Local 480’s Doug Jones, who has helped lobby the government on behalf of about 90 Greater Trail residents who have lost their lives or are living with asbestos-related illnesses.

“I think we’ve made a lot of headway,” said Jones, referring to the union’s efforts, which include creating a documentary that followed the lives of locals like Eno Bulfone who eventually past away after struggling with Mesothelioma.

Carol Vanelli Worosz, chief public relations officer at Teck’s Trail Operations, said the company has worked with the union on these issues.

“Over the last three years Trail Operations has spent over $3 million each year on asbestos removal.

“Teck Trail Operations has worked diligently over the past 25 years to remove and remediate all traces of asbestos in our operations and these efforts continue today.

Adding insult to injury, the government changed the legislation in 2002 so anyone over the age of 65 who got sick would not receive disability pay, when previously there was no limit.

“His family has to just sort of carry on and there’s no accountability for it. It takes between 15 and 40 years for an asbestos-related illness to set in and become an issue,” said Jones. “In that time he obviously got it from work, and we say if it’s a work-related illness, injury or disease then there should be some compensation for that.”

He will share Trail’s perspective of the No. 1 occupational killer, which became popular due to its resistance to heat, sound absorption and strength.

Though asbestos has been banned for many years in Canada and the asbestos removal program cleared most of the material from Teck, some of its remains can be found in older buildings.

“Teck has obviously, and Cominco back in the day, recognized that there was a lot of asbestos up there.

“They did a great job in the early ‘80s in removing as much of that asbestos, that was dangerous, as they could,” he said. “Now there is still asbestos up there – there was just asbestos removed from the hospital not too long ago – and when (J. L. Crowe Secondary School) was torn down, it was full of asbestos. It’s everywhere.”

Vanelli Worosz added Teck continues to address the issue annually.

“The company was a pioneer in the management of exposure to asbestos and has been recognized for this work by WorkSafeBC

“We review our asbestos inventory annually using specific criteria to assess and remediate items containing asbestos. A list of asbestos abatement projects is then assembled and the determination is made as to whether remediation will involve removal or repair for each project.”