What should have been a relief marking the end of a harrowing experience proved to be just the beginning of a nightmare for residents of northern Toronto. Toronto was rocked by a propane explosion at the Sunrise Propane plant in early August of 2008. Those living and working in proximity to the plant were evacuated, but later allowed to return to their homes. That was when the trouble started. Some homeowners discovered that they had asbestos residue from the blast on their properties in the Keele and Wilson area. The city has told residents that they are in no danger and they should avoid contact with the asbestos, but residents are angered and upset that the toxic substance was found near their homes. Exposure to dust and fibers from asbestos has been linked to many deadly lung diseases including the aggressive cancer mesothelioma. Diagnosis of these ailments often does not occur for 10 to 25 years after exposure.
Fears for their own health and those of their children remain in light of the fact that children were playing at a daycare the day before it was shut down after asbestos was found on the site. Neighboring Ancaster Community Centre which had been hosting a children’s day camp, has also been closed pending removal of the asbestos. The city is currently working to remove the asbestos in the area. Crews dressed in white jumpsuits and armed with vacuums are cleaning the sidewalks and parking lots of the Ancaster Community Centre and the adjacent day care. To alleviate parents’ fears, the city has also sent home letters stating that low levels of asbestos exposure are safe, a conclusion disputed by researchers who have studied asbestos and who say that any asbestos exposure above background levels is dangerous.