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Asbestos News

In a town plagued by mesothelioma and job loss, residents still welcome mine's reopening
In sentiments that are nothing short of heartbreaking, the residents of Asbestos, Quebec - a town that has been rocked by mesothelioma, asbestosis and unemployment - are nevertheless overjoyed to see their local mine, the Jeffrey, reopen.

According to the Montreal Gazette, most of the 7,000 people currently living in the town expressed excitement and relief following the news that Quebec Premier Jean Charest has given the Jeffrey Mine $58 million in taxpayer funds to throw open its doors again.

Economic desperation

The news source noted that Asbestos, Quebec, has fallen on hard times, as has the nearby town of Thetford Mines. The two locales were once booming industrial regions, each with an economy based largely on the mining of asbestos and magnesium.

Yet, as many nations began banning asbestos or (in the case of the U.S.) restricting its use, the global demand for the toxic fiber dwindled. The newspaper stated that, according to the Canadian census, the population of Asbestos fell from 14,000 to 7,000 in just one decade (2001 to 2010). Unemployment ran rampant.

However, the town expects an influx of workers and jobs following the news of the loan, which was made using public funds.

"These jobs will keep the town alive, or else it's dead," said miner and resident Marco Briere, apparently without irony.

"There is nothing else here," he told the newspaper. "No one wants to open a store here, because we don’t have any money. This is a town of borrowers."

Briere's father, who worked in the Jeffrey Mine for 35 years, died of lung cancer. Nevertheless, Briere told the news source that he has already sent the mine's owners his resume.

Environmental catastrophe

Even as resident Caroline Payer described moving to Asbestos and waiting for the mine to reopen, the Gazette's reporter noted her 3-year-old daughter playing barefoot in the loose backyard soil.

Such vignettes are chilling, considering that scientists have found a higher-than-average rate of mesothelioma among females in Asbestos.

In a study of lung cancer incidence among townswomen with nonoccupational asbestos exposure, researchers found "significant excess numbers of deaths due to pleural cancer." Their report, which was published in the New England Journal of Medicine, emphasized that "the instances of pleural cancer suggest an excess risk of mesothelioma."

In a follow-up study, appearing in the Journal of Occupational Hygiene, the same group noted "an excess of mesotheliomas in this population relative to the female population of Quebec" - though the authors curiously downplayed this finding.
7/19/12

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