Three new studies raise some interesting questions about statistics regarding asbestos-related disease rates and compensation. The article “Surveillance of mesothelioma and workers’ compensation in British Columbia, Canada” broadly mirrors the results of studies in Alberta and Ontario.
The study examined reporting and compensation of mesothelioma in BC. Mesothelioma is an almost always fatal cancer that is clearly linked to asbestos exposure.
The study found that, between 1970 and 2005, 33% of BC cases of mesothelioma were compensated by the workers’ compensation board. Annually, the rate of compensation increased over time and was as high as 49% in 1999 and 2004. These rates of compensation are approximately half the rates in France (62%) and Australia (64%) notably lower than rates in Ontario (43%) and Alberta (42%). Gender, age, site of cancer and location of residence all were important variables in acceptance rates.
Under-compensation is important because accepted compensation claims are used to “count” workplace injuries and illnesses. Unaccepted cases of occupationally-related mesothelioma (normally caused by non-reporting) results in an under-estimation of exposure rates and of the hazardous nature of asbestos. This, in turn, results in greater externalizing of production costs onto workers, their families and the general medical system in the form of mesothelioma and other asbestos-related diseases.