Newspaper article The Canadian Press

NDP, Dying Man Want Asbestos Registry for Public Buildings in Saskatchewan

Newspaper article The Canadian Press

NDP, Dying Man Want Asbestos Registry for Public Buildings in Saskatchewan

Article excerpt

NDP, dying man want asbestos registry

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REGINA - A Saskatchewan man who is dying from an asbestos-related cancer is urging the province to make lists of public buildings that contain asbestos available to everyone.

Howard Willems worked as a building inspector for 31 years and now has mesothelioma, a very rare form of cancer that comes from inhaling asbestos fibres. Willems says people should know if they're going into buildings that have asbestos -- especially if construction work is being done.

"I think everyone has the right to know when they enter a building that it is safe and if there's asbestos in there, at what state is it at because not knowing is the biggest thing," Willems said in a phone interview from Saskatoon.

"If you know and you go into a building and they say, 'Yes there's asbestos here, but it's all contained,' and then you go in and you see construction you can ask the appropriate questions -- how are things being controlled so that during construction the people who come in for work there or the general public are safe."

Asbestos was used in a lot of building materials, such as insulation and roofing, until the late 1970s. It is not considered harmful if undisturbed. But construction work stirs up hazardous fibres that can be inhaled.

"The buildings that I went into were not marked and the insulating material had no warning label there was asbestos," Willems said with a halting breath.

Willems spoke out as the Opposition NDP introduced a private member's bill in the Saskatchewan legislature that would require details about asbestos containment in public buildings be listed online.

New Democrat Cam Broten said people could then take steps to protect themselves.

"If a parent knew that renovations were happening at the school where their child was attending, it allows them to ask are the right steps being taken, is the dust being contained, what precautions do they have," said Broten. …

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