Quebec town tries to leave name in the past

This blog has told many stories about victims of asbestos and of the diseases that it causes, but one victim is struggling to survive a different kind of illness: the effects of its name. Much of the asbestos that has caused illness and death in the United States and all over the world was mined in southern Quebec, and the town at the center of the mining operations adopted the name of the mineral that appeared to have created a never-ending stream of prosperity. Now, the town of Asbestos, Quebec is trying to escape the consequences of its unfortunate name.

The hazards of exposure to asbestos-containing products are widely known in the industrial world. Almost every person knows to some degree that asbestos is a toxic substance that causes lung cancer, asbestosis and mesothelioma. The reputation of asbestos the mineral has now been transferred to Asbestos the town. One resident, who had worked as a geologist at the mine in Asbestos, recounted stories of the many negative reactions he received while traveling in Europe when he revealed the name of his home town.

Asbestos was first mined in southern Quebec in 1879, and the mineral was soon sold and used in asbestos products all over the world. The mine near its namesake town expanded many times, chewing up streets, houses, trees and utilities. Even the town itself was forced to move. The asbestos mine was closed in 2011 and, ever since, residents of the town have been trying to build a new economy and new future. Canada has provided economic assistance to the town and its residents, but the future is still uncertain.

The asbestos mine provided good incomes to miners and other mine employees before the hazards of the mineral became widely known. Now, the town resembles the victims of its only product: sick, possibly dying, with an unknowable future. Unlike the town of Asbestos, the human victims of asbestos have a chance, with the assistance of a lawyer who specializes in asbestos product liability claims, to recover damages for medical expenses, lost income and pain and suffering, but their lives have been ruined by exposure to this toxic mineral.

Source: Toronto Star, “Quebec town of Asbestos turning page on rocky past.” Allan Woods, Dec. 18, 2016