05/14/2010 // Chicago, IL, USA // Cooney & Conway // Mesothelioma attorneys: Cooney & Conway

Despite international rebukes, a struggling Quebec town is gearing up to expand operations in one of Canada’s last remaining asbestos mines. Under a $190 million plan, an underground portion of the Jeffrey Mine in Asbestos, Quebec, would reopen, allowing operations to continue year-round.

The town, hard hit by the economic downturn, has lost more than 1,000 jobs in the past five years. It is home to the country’s two remaining asbestos mines, and proponents of the project argue that the expanded operations will help create or preserve 450 jobs.

Critics, however, are pointing to a more sobering fact: Asbestos has long been linked to life-threatening diseases, including lung cancer, mesothelioma, and asbestosis, a scarring of the lungs that causes severe breathing problems.

Mesothelioma, a nearly always-fatal cancer of the protective lining covering many of the body’s organs, has been a particularly deadly consequence of asbestos exposure. In nearly all cases, it has been triggered by the inhalation of asbestos dust and fibers. The disease is typically not diagnosed until decades after exposure, and the prognosis is invariably grim.

Over the years, juries have awarded asbestos victims and mesothelioma lawyers billions of dollars in settlements and verdicts in asbestos lawsuits brought against employers and manufacturers who knew about the dangers of asbestos but failed to take proper precautions or give sufficient warning of its hazards.

Health authorities around the world have long advocated against the use of asbestos, which was a popular construction material, particularly in insulation, until health risks became widely known several decades ago. Many developed nations, including all 27 members of the European Union, have banned asbestos use outright.

Quebec—which has rarely used asbestos in its own construction projects—exports the material to developing countries, including India. In April, a member of an Indian health group accused Quebec Premier Jean Charest of borderline racism because of his stance on asbestos exports to India. In a letter to Charest, Mohit Gupta of the Occupational and Environmental Health Network of India contended that the premier was dismissing Indians as second-class citizens.

During a visit to India in February, Charest suggested that it was up to other countries to develop laws to protect workers from mesothelioma and other asbestos-related cancers.

Much of the funding for Quebec’s asbestos project is already in place. The owners of the mine along with a cooperative of mine workers have contributed $130 million. A group of business cooperatives has raised another $2 million. A final $58 million has been sought from the provincial government, which has yet to make a decision on the request.

Officials with Canada’s asbestos industry have long maintained that the material is safe as long as precautions are followed. But as the number of asbestos-related deaths — and asbestos lawsuits — demonstrates, there is no safe level of exposure to the deadly material.

This news story is brought to you by the asbestos mesothelioma lawyers at Cooney & Conway. For over half a century, Cooney & Conway has been fighting for the rights, and recovery, of those harmed by the wrongful actions of others—including victims of asbestos exposure. The firm’s litigators have won landmark judgments in some of the country’s most important mesothelioma and asbestos lawsuits.

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