Preservation Efforts Underway for Selikoff’s Records; Miners Urged to Register

In a continuation of the diligent work of Dr. Irving Selikoff, the town of Baie Verte has begun searching for former employees of the Baie Verte Asbestos Mine in order to compile a database of those who avoid and those who develop asbestos related diseases. Dr. Selikoff began his work in the Baie Verte area — near Newfoundland, Canada — in the 1970s. He gathered medical records of employees of the mine in order to study the relationship between asbestos and diseases such as asbestosis and mesothelioma. Most of the medical record data he collected had been stored in Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City since his death. As a result of his work, many employees of the mine learned of the dangers their jobs posed to their health. Asbestos’s toxicity to the human body and its dangers were known in the early 20th century, but studies proving this were covered up in order to preserve the booming asbestos industry, which flourished until the 1980s. Mesothelioma is a cancer of the lining of the lungs, and its only known cause is exposure to asbestos.

Tracking down cases of such diseases can prove difficult without an extensive database since asbestos-caused diseases often do not manifest themselves until ten to twenty years following exposure. Maintaining a registry of former employees’ medical records can help to further the work of Dr. Selikoff in examining the relationship between asbestos and diseases such as asbestosis and mesothelioma. Seeking out the former Baie Verte Asbestos Mine employees is a collaborative effort between the Workplace Health, Safety and Compensation Commission (WHSCC), the United Steel Workers (USW), and the Baie Verte Peninsula Miners’ Action Committee. SafetyNet, from Memorial University, will create the database registry and enter information into it as it is collected. To date, over 800 names of former employees both living and dead have been put into the registry.