Asbestos’ human cost ‘astronomical’

Tyler Kula in The Observer

Sandra Kinart,left, and Ada Lockridge, with Victims of Chemical Valley, are helping organize a series of events to raise attention for asbestos issues in Sarnia. TYLER KULA/THE OBSERVER/QMI AGENCY

Most stories of death from asbestos exposure are the same, says Sandra Kinart.

“(People) go to work, they’re strong, they’re healthy. And then one day they can’t breath.”

The Victims of Chemical Valley (VOCV) chairperson lost her husband Blayne seven years ago to mesothelioma.

“He climbed a tower one day, he came home and said, ‘I couldn’t breathe.'”

Doctors later removed seven litres of fluid from his lung.

“It sounds ever so quick but it wasn’t,” she said, noting the tests, doctors appointments and surgery.

The same year Blayne fell ill, Kinart’s brother-in-law was diagnosed with stomach and bowel cancer, and her best friend’s husband was diagnosed with bladder cancer.

All eventually succumbed to their illnesses.

“Sarnia has lost an astronomical amount of people to asbestos and the story’s still being written every day,” said Kinart, 64.

“There’s probably not a day that goes by that someone or more pass away from this.”

The impact extends to families, she said. Even the community suffers from the loss of working citizens.

“The loss of one man is profound,” she said. “The loss of many is unfathomable really, when you look at the whole picture.”

Women who washed their husbands’ asbestos-filled clothing are now developing asbestos-related diseases as well, said VOCV vice-chairperson Ada Lockridge.

Most are left wondering where to turn when their partners become ill, she said, and again when they pass away.

“Diagnosis throws you into a complete crisis and nobody comes knocking on your door,” said Kinart. “You sit at home and try to figure out how this all works.”

The Victims of Chemical Valley are holding a series of events to help raise awareness about asbestos, and grow public support to condemn the Canadian government for asbestos exports to Third World Countries.

“Quit shipping it off to these poor people,” Lockridge said. “It’s going to hit them and will they have anything available to them? No.”

The group is sending postcards to the Prime Minister, petitioning him to stop the exports.

Group members are also participating in the Labour Day parade, Sept. 5, starting at 9:30 a.m. from Front and Wellington streets

“The idea is to get the women out, get their stories out,” said Kinart, noting the parade, one of only a few left in Canada, gets strong support every year.

On Sept. 8, VOCV and the Occupational Health Clinic for Ontario Workers are hosting a free documentary screening of Breathtaking at the Sarnia Public Library, beginning at 6:30 p.m.

Director Kathleen Mullen documents her father’s journey with mesothelioma.

A candle light vigil in honor of asbestos victims will be held at the Victims of Chemical Valley Memorial in Centennial Park, Sept. 30 at 7:30 p.m. More information is available at

On Oct. 1, a short walk to remember asbestos victims will be staged, starting in Centennial Park.

More information is available at


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