Canada Seeing Increases in Occupational Cancer Claiming

A new paper by Bianco and Demers – available here at no charge – concludes that Canada is seeing notable increases in occupational cancer claiming. The claiming of course includes lung cancer and mesothelioma claiming tied to workplace exposures. Other carcinogens also are implicated, but their impacts are not yet clear. A key paragraph provides data as follows:

"Between 1997 and 2010, there was a 216.4% increase in accepted claims for mesothelioma, a 575.0% increase in accepted claims for lung cancer and a 512.5% increase in accepted claims for other cancers (Figure 4) in Canada. During the same period in Ontario, increases were seen for compensated claims for both mesothelioma and lung cancer. In addition, compensated claims for deaths from lung cancer occasionally exceeded those for mesothelioma in Ontario — a phenomenon not seen in the overall Canadian trends, where the number of accepted claims for mesothelioma was consistently higher than those for lung cancer. Ontario underwent a 97.7% increase in accepted claims for mesothelioma, a 383.3% increase in accepted claims for lung cancer and a 1300.0% increase in accepted claims for other cancers during the study period (Figure 5)."

More broadly, the abstract states:

"Background: Occupational cancer is the leading cause of work-related deaths, yet it is often unrecognized and under reported, and associated claims for compensation go unfiled. We sought to examine trends in deaths from occupational cancer, high-risk industries and exposures, and commonly compensated categories of occupational cancers. In addition, we compared deaths from occupational lung cancer for which compensation had been given with total deaths from lung cancer.

Methods: We used data from the Association of Workers’ Compensation Boards of Canada pertaining to the nature and source of the injury or disease and the industry in which it occurred (by jurisdiction) to describe trends in compensated claims for deaths from occupational cancer in Canada for the period 1997–2010. We used data published by the Canadian Cancer Society in Canadian Cancer Statistics to compare compensated occupational lung cancer deaths with total estimated lung cancer deaths for the period between 2006 and 2010.

Results: Compensated claims for deaths from occupational cancer have increased in recent years and surpassed those for traumatic injuries and disorders in Canada, particularly in Ontario. Between 1997 and 2010, one-half of all compensated deaths from occupational cancer in Canada were from Ontario. High-risk industries for occupational cancer include manufacturing, construction, mining and, more recently, government services. Deaths from lung cancer and mesothelioma comprise most of the compensated claims for deaths from occupational cancer in Ontario and Canada. These diseases are usually the result of asbestos exposure. The burden of other occupational carcinogens is not reflected in claims data.

Interpretation: Although the number of accepted claims for deaths from occupational cancers has increased in recent years, these claims likely only represent a fraction of the true burden of this problem. Increased education of patients, workers at high risk of exposure and health care providers is needed to ensure that people with work-related cancer are identified and file a claim for compensation."

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Since becoming a lawyer in 1983, Kirk’s over 30 years of practice have focused on advising a wide range of corporations, associations, and individuals (as both plaintiffs and defendants) on both tort and commercial law issues centered around “mass torts.”

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