Occupational Cancer and Asbestosis among Asbestos-Exposed Workers in Ontario

Status: In Progress


The purpose of this project is to examine lung cancer and chronic respiratory disease risk among registrants in the Ontario Asbestos Workers Register (AWR). This project will also assess the utility of the AWR data for occupational disease surveillance in Ontario.


Asbestos is classified as a known human carcinogen by the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC); asbestos exposure can lead to asbestosis, lung cancer and mesothelioma. The Ontario Asbestos Workers’ Register (AWR) was developed in 1986 to monitor exposure to asbestos-containing materials (ACM) so that asbestos-exposed workers could be identified and information on potential health impacts could be provided to both the worker and their primary health care provider.

Research on asbestos and occupational health has historically focused on miners and manufacturing workers, but contemporary exposure to asbestos occurs among workers involved in remediation of ACM or maintenance and renovation of ACM containing structures. These workers qualify for enrollment in the Ontario AWR and thus the AWR provides valuable information on asbestos-exposed workers outside of mining and manufacturing.


A retrospective cohort of workers will be created from the Asbestos Workers’ Register (AWR).  The AWR contains information on approximately 33,000 workers who worked in Ontario between 1986 and 2011. The cohort file will be linked with both administrative health data and the Ontario Cancer Registry (OCR) file to ascertain information on lung cancer, mesothelioma and asbestosis.


This study will describe the burden of mesothelioma, lung cancer and asbestosis amongst Ontario’s asbestos-exposed workers and how this burden may have changed over time. Importantly this work will provide an estimate of risk associated with remediation and maintenance work that has not been the focus of much previous research. This study will also provide important information on the utility of a mandatory exposure registry for occupational disease surveillance.


January 2018 – This project was recently funded and is getting underway.


This study is funded by a grant from the Ontario Ministry of Labour Research Opportunity Program:
Demers PA, Arrandale VH, Geneseove LJ. Occupational Cancer and Asbestosis among Asbestos-Exposed Workers in Ontario. 2017-2019.


Paul A Demers (Occupational Cancer Research Centre, University of Toronto)
Victoria H Arrandale (Occupational Cancer Research Centre, University of Toronto)
Leon J Genesove (Ontario Ministry of Labour)
Colin Berriault (Occupational Cancer Research Centre)