Work Safe Saskatchewan says that asbestos exposure is the leading cause of work-related deaths in the province and is launching an awareness campaign called ‘Asbestos kills. It’s best to test.’
Work Safe Saskatchewan is encouraging all contractors and homeowners to take the proper steps to protect themselves against asbestos exposure.
Asbestos is commonly thought of as a problem in the past, but asbestos is actually common in houses and commercial buildings built before 1990. It can be found in insulation and other building materials like vinyl flooring, popcorn or stipple ceilings and walls, acoustic tiles and drywall joint compound. Once asbestos is airborne, no matter the amount, they can cause serious diseases like mesothelioma, lung cancer, and asbestosis.
A 70-year old man from Chitek Lake was diagnosed with mesothelioma last year after having back surgery. Wade Dieno worked in the trades, with most of his work being in the uranium mines, although he doesn’t want to point any fingers as he says that he was always offered the proper protective equipment, but it’s up to the person to use it properly.
“You never know where you pick it up.” Said Dieno. “It’s just years and years of industry and somewhere you get it from not paying proper attention to your PPE and things like that.”
Dieno was just two years into his retirement when doctors discovered a spot on a scan after back surgery. That spot turned out to be mesothelioma, a diagnosis that not only took him by surprise, but turned his life upside down after planning the perfect retirement.
“It’s changed my whole life.” Dieno says. “You know, it’s like I’m on a- I’m terminally ill, you know what I’m saying? It’s uh, it’s a death sentence, it’s not whether they can keep me alive, it’s how long.”
Dieno and his wife had purchased a place in Mexico to retire in, but now he spends his time at home, going for chemotherapy and tests to see how he’s responding to the chemo, as unfortunately, chemotherapy is his only treatment option.
“It went into my lung and then from my lung it went through my lung and onto my ribcage, which is the worst-case scenario,” Dieno said. “Because they can actually get rid of a lung, but being that when it’s on the ribcage it’s just a matter of, “You’re chemo from here on in.” … I mean, it changes your life drastically. It changes your life from having a life to not having a future.”
Dieno had worked hard to be able to buy property near a beach in Mexico with scooters and golf carts to spend his golden years in leisure with his wife. He also bought a new motorcycle that now sits in his garage as mesothelioma often leaves him so out of breath that all he can do is sit down.
His wife had already left for Mexico and he was ready to follow when he got his fatal diagnosis. Instead of relaxing, having the time to enjoy his life, he spends most of his time at his home in Chitek Lake and going for chemo treatments.
“You work so hard and then that one little spot goes, “Oh, wait a minute, wait a minute,”’ said Dieno.
“And I already was leaving and the wife had left already for Mexico when I got my good news and I haven’t gone anywhere since. I have things like I worked all my life to have a beautiful Harley Davidson motorcycle, got the one I want, it’s got 9,000 miles on it. There it sits in my garage now for 2 years ‘cause I can’t ride it… I spent 3 or 4 days in bed where I didn’t know where I was, finally I’m good enough I can eat a little bit. It’s God awful.”
Mesothelioma is a type of cancer that is very aggressive and often deadly. The primary risk factor for mesothelioma is asbestos exposure, which isn’t just a problem of the past as many people tend to believe. Although there’s more information about the risks of asbestos exposure, asbestos is still common in homes and commercial buildings built before 1990. Because of this, Dieno is sharing his story in hopes that people will take asbestos exposure more seriously and always wear PPE.
“It (asbestos) has always there but it wasn’t as big a deal as it is today,” said Dieno.
“And you don’t know where you get it from. Somewhere you get it and it could be in you 20 years or longer and you don’t realize it, you know? So, basically what WCB (worker’s compensation board) and whatnot- we’re just, we’re just kinda out there hoping that somebody, somewhere along the line can listen to a story that I have and make sure that they do wear their PPE when they’re not sure what’s going on. It’s like a hidden devil, you know? You don’t know where you’re gonna get it, you don’t know exactly how it’s going to get into to you. There’s so many different ways… wear your stuff all the time, don’t let your guard down.”
Dieno says that he doesn’t blame anyone but himself for asbestos exposure. The companies he had worked for had always provided PPE and had regular safety meetings, but like many, he didn’t take the risk quite as seriously as he now wishes he did.
“(I had) all the opportunity to wear respirators, hazmat, you name it,” Dieno said. “I had the option of any thing I wanted and it’s me that dropped the ball somewhere, I don’t know where but somewhere. I didn’t responsibly use my protective equipment.”
Dieno has been giving interviews in hopes that more people will take the risk of exposure seriously and wear their PPE at all times, even if a person thinks they’re probably safe because, “you never know.”