Episode 17: Asbestos - A Lethal Legacy

On the Line: Stories of BC Workers

20-09-2022 • 23 mins

This episode looks at the grim toll taken by exposure to carcinogenic fibres of asbestos.  Because it often takes decades for diseases such as mesothelioma  - a cancer caused by asbestos exposure - to develop, its legacy is ongoing.  We’ve known about these dangers for decades, yet the widespread use of asbestos continued long after its lethal properties were beyond dispute. It routinely found its way into a startling range of construction materials and, ironically, safety products.

In September 2022, the BC Labour Heritage Centre officially dedicated a remarkable memorial to the victims of asbestos.  The Asbestos Memorial is located on the Vancouver waterfront as part of the Vancouver Convention Centre's Art Program with a commanding view of Burrard Inlet, where workers once loaded asbestos onto cargo ships.

Lee Loftus, a third-generation member of the Insulators Union Local 118 talks about his role in raising awareness and understanding the risks of asbestos exposure.

Tracy Ford, co-founder of the Asbestos-Related Research, Education & Advocacy Fund (AREA), recalls how the disease caught up with her father.

Dave Pritchett, a longshoreman who worked at the Cassiar Asbestos dock in North Vancouver, explains how he and fellow longshore workers were on the front lines of handling asbestos.

Linda Brace, widow of a smelter worker in Trail BC, recounts Cominco's response to her husband's death from mesothelioma at the age of 53.

FEATURED MUSIC:   Theme song: "Hold the Fort" - Arranged & Performed by Tom Hawken & his band, 1992. Part of the "On to Ottawa" film produced by Sara Diamond.

"More Than a Paycheck" written by Ysaye Barnwell and performed by Solidarity Notes Labour Choir, from the CD "A New World for Our Heirs".

"Sit Down" written by Maurice Sugar and performed by Manhattan Chorus.

Tracy Ford, "A History of Asbestos in BC", BC Labour Heritage Centre and WorkSafeBC, 2015. https://youtu.be/uEOgZt2y1_I

Dave Pritchett, Oral History interview, BC Labour Heritage Centre, 2018.

Linda Brace, "Asbestos - The Silent Killer", United Steelworkers Local 480, 2008. https://youtu.be/H9IkIr3Jm5Y

RESEARCH: Research and script for this episode by Patricia Wejr & Rod Mickleburgh. Production by John Mabbott.