Understanding the impact of asbestos:

Glen Godden’s story

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With more than 50 years in his trade — which included working directly with asbestos — Glen Godden tells his story, a first-hand account of how he discovered he had asbestosis (a respiratory disease brought on by inhaling asbestos fibres), some of the symptoms he’s experienced and the steps he’s taken:

In April 1997, I had a heart bypass operation. Following that, every few months I had tests on the heart to determine why I was experiencing a shortage of breath whenever I exerted myself. In 2001, I was informed asbestosis might be the cause. It was a complete shock.

My diagnosis came in 2004. It was after a visit with a lung specialist, an X-ray, a pulmonary test, and a CT scan. With my diagnosis, it was also determined I was likely a compensatory case with WorkSafeBC.

Being a member of local union 170, I went about finding what to do next. As many cases like mine were starting to show up, the union appointed a dedicated business agent to look after members who, like me, were being diagnosed with asbestos-related health issues.

Since my initial diagnosis, further tests have shown that 26 to 33 percent of both lobes of my lungs have been infected. Every two years I have tests done to see if there are changes. Fortunately, my health has only decreased slightly, and I still remain free of cancer.

When I started my trade in 1952 we would open full 50-pound bags of asbestos, dump it into a pail, and add water so we could trowel it on boilers as insulation, which would be covered in a grey film. At the time, no one mentioned that it was dangerous even though they knew of the health problems it caused. It's hard to imagine that it took some 52 years before it showed up in me. I’m glad asbestos is no longer used in Canada.

Glen Godden