‘Asbestos orphan’ vows to fight moves to revive Canadian industry

- July 3rd, 2012

A Canadian actress is convinced her mother is “turning over in her grave”now the Quebec provincial government has promised to spend $58 million to help reopen an asbestos mine ­ a move it believes could revive the collapsed and controversial industry.

“She would be horrified,” said Heidi Von Palleske, who’s acted in films like Red, Dead Ringers and Take The Lead.

Palleske, a self-described “asbestos orphan” and the co-founder of Canadian Voices of Asbestos Victims, says she watched both her mother and father die from ghastly illnesses related to chrysotile asbestos exposure.

In 1977, the International Agency for Research on Cancer, the global authority on carcinogenic substances, identified chrysotile asbestos as a known human carcinogen. Exposure to the material causes lung cancer and other diseases, including asbestosis and mesothelioma, a rare form of cancer that is almost exclusively linked to asbestos exposure.

Palleske’s father worked in a mine and she says her mother became very sick because she inhaled asbestos fibres off her husband¹s clothes.

“After my mom died, I turned the grief into rage. A very, very directed rage…Šit allowed me to fight, for her and for other victims,” P alleske said.”It is a shame that the fight has to continue.”

Canada’s last asbestos mine in Quebec shut down in November due to financial and environmental constraints, putting an end to the 130-year-old industry, but Quebec’s hefty loan guarantee could lead to its revival.

The Jeffery Mine located in Asbestos, Que. closed two years ago but Montreal asbestos trader Baljit Chadha, president of Balcorp Ltd., is moving to restart operations.

Industry Minister Christian Paradis, who hails from a town located close to Asbestos, does not take issue with the loan despite calls for reconsideration from groups including the Canadian Cancer Society.

“The safe use policy is there in place and we believe it can be used safely,” said Paradis. “Let’s see how this will be implemented in practice.”

Paradis says the company will have to sign agreements with customers to ensure asbestos is handled properly.

All federal parties, with the exception of the Tories, support an outright ban on exporting or mining chrysotile asbestos. The mineral has already been banned in 50 countries including European nations.

Canada has been one of the world¹s biggest exporters of asbestos even though it’s no longer used here due to health concerns including cancer links.

More than 107,000 people die each year from asbestos-related lung cancer, mesothelioma and asbestosis resulting from occupational exposure, according to the World Health Organization.

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