Mesothelioma Study

About the study

Mesothelioma is a rare cancer which develops in the lining that surrounds the lungs and other organs. It develops exclusively in people who have worked in jobs which exposed them to asbestos. It can take 20 to 50 years to develop after exposure and, currently, there is no cure.

Heat and Frost Local 118 and BC Insulation Contractors Association (BCICA) have joined forces to fund a study. The goal is to find an early detection method that will increase the number of people who survive this terrible disease.

Our union members are one of the most at-risk populations in the world. We want to fight back.

Because so few people in the world meet the exposure criterion, we need a high percentage of Local 118 members to participate in the study to make it viable.

Because Mesothelioma is rare, the large pharmaceutical companies are unwilling to fund drug discovery initiatives because it would be difficult to make a return on their investment. As a result, little money has been available for research.

Mesothelioma cases in Canada are among the highest in the world. Insulation workers, particularly those who worked prior to the mid-1980s — before mandatory respiration protection was actively enforced — are vulnerable to the disease. Each day a new Mesothelioma victim is identified in Canada.

Canada is one of only five countries in the world that still mines asbestos. The mineral was used in thousands of different products. While its use has diminished, it continues to be used in some construction materials.

Signs of Mesothelioma

Symptoms of mesothelioma can take 20 to 50 years to develop after exposure.
Early signs* include:

  • shortness of breath
  • coughing
  • fatigue
  • chest wall pain

People are normally not aware that they are developing mesothelioma cancer. By the time it is detected, the disease can be quite advanced. For more information visit the Mesothelioma Center.
*These symptoms can also be caused by by other, less serious conditions.

I want to volunteer!

Saying “YES” can make a difference! Local 118 is encouraging anyone who may have had exposure to asbestos to participate.

Because so few people world-wide meet the exposure criterion, we need as many people as possible to step forward.


Eligibility Requirements

  • Men or women aged 50 to 79 years
  • History of exposure to asbestos
  • Increased risk of lung cancer
  • Asbestosis or pleural plaques on chest CT scan OR
  • Capable of providing informed consent.


  • Any severe medical condition such as severe heart disease, acute or chronic respiratory failure or any disorder that in the opinion of a physician is expected to shorten life expectancy from co-existing diseases.
  • Previously diagnosed with Mesothelioma
  • Had some other cancer (there are a few exceptions to this rule – please contact Lung study Coordinator, Bettina Alexander, at 604-675-8088
  • Pregnancy
  • Unwilling to take a chest CT scan or give consent.

Maximum number of volunteers : 200 people
Number of Local 118 members who have volunteered: 97 people
General Public Volunteers: 15


What’s involved

Initially, you will be asked to do a screening interview over the telephone to assess your history and risk factors.

You will be invited to participate in this study if you:

  • have been told you have asbestosis or
  • you have been told that you have pleural plaques (scars on the diaphragm or the lining of the chest cavity) or
  • have an increased risk of cancer according to your questionnaire

Everyone will be asked to give a blood and sputum sample and take a lung function test to establish a baseline. You will also take a lung CT scan. Then depending on the results, some people will be asked to return to Vancouver to repeat the blood, lung function and CT scan in following years.


Time commitment

After the initial telephone screening interview, you will travel to Vancouver to donate your medical samples and complete a questionnaire on your smoking history, occupational exposures and other relevant data. This should take a few hours, depending on when scientists are able to schedule your scan and lung function tests. Most people who live in the Lower Mainland can complete these tests and return home within one day.

For Local 118 members who live outside the Lower Mainland (defined as further than 350 kilometers from Vancouver), there will also be travel time involving ferries or planes. Most of these people will be staying overnight in a designated hotel near the hospital where the tests take place. You will need to commit two days.

Mesothelioma takes decades after exposure to reach detection levels. Your contribution to this research will last indefinitely – even after your death. Your samples and the information you give will be stored indefinitely unless you decide to withdraw from this study – in which case you can ask us to destroy whatever samples remain. We will be requesting that you or your executor keep contact with us, as we will need to know what ultimately happens to you.


Funding for Local 118 participants

All Local 118 members who fall under the following categories will receive funding assistance if you participate in this study.

  • Active, dues-paying members
  • Honorary
  • International Exempt
  • Retired
  • Withdrawal Disability

All Local 118 members in these above categories will receive $50 for incidental out-of-pocket expense. In addition, members who travel significant distances to participate will be reimbursed for the following:

  • Return ferry fares for those who travel by to Vancouver. (Receipts must be submitted.)
  • Return airfare for those who travel from distances greater than 350 km to Vancouver.
  • Hotel accommodation expenses for one night if you are required to stay overnight in Vancouver


Funding for general public participants

If you are not a member of Local 118 you must make your own financial arrangements. We are unable to offer you travel assistance.



How do I know if they will use me in the study?
You will be told during the telephone screening interview if we will be able to use you in the study. After that, we will organize a time for you to be in Vancouver as well as any travel and hotel arrangements. You will be able to pick up your plane tickets at the airport.

Who makes my reservations?
Local 118 will make all airline and hotel reservations for the out-of-town participants. If you live within the 350 kilometre boundary, you need to arrange your own transportation to the Cancer Agency.


Please note that the parking fees may have changed, and are for reference only:

Parking at the BC Cancer Agency is $3.50 @hour and is a maximum of $14.25 for the day. Parking at the Holiday Inn is offered to guests at $18 per day.

Where will I be staying?
You will be staying at the Holiday Inn located at 711 West Broadway West Broadway. The hotel offers free high-speed Internet, complimentary coffee, tea and water, indoor pool and comfortable, modern bedding and furnishings.

How far is the hotel to the Cancer Agency?
This hotel is a two block, flat and easy walk to the BC Cancer Agency.

How easy is it to get around?
Park Inn & Suites Hotel is located three blocks from the Broadway City Hall Skytrain station, which provides a direct link to the Vancouver International Airport in 19 minutes and downtown in 5 minutes.

How do I get my money?
We will mail your $50 honorarium cheque to the address you provide after you have completed your tests.
If you require flights and hotel bookings, we will pay for that directly.

If you are travelling to Vancouver by ferry, please mail your ferry fare receipts to us and we will refund you.

What is there to do in the neighbourhood of the hotel?
There are lots of ethnic restaurants right beside the hotel. Granville Island with its entertainment and shops is also close. To find easy-to-do activities check out this list.

I am not an active member of Local 118. What kind of assistance can I get?
Unfortunately we are unable to offer monetary assistance for participants who have withdrawn from the union, lapsed or anyone who is a non-member. But we really hope that you are willing to contribute to this important scientific research by participating.

I am not an active member of Local 118. Can you make travel or hotel arrangements for me?
You will have to make your own arrangements to come to town. If you need a place to stay, we recommend the Holiday Inn at 711 West Broadway. Telephone 604-872-7520.

I am not an active member of Local 118. How do I get an appointment time to participate in this study?
Please call contact the Lung study Coordinator, Bettina Alexander, at 604-675-8088 and she will coordinate your appointment time. Please, if possible, also have your Personal Health Number ready beforehand.

Can I take the tests in my home town?
No. The study tests have special requirements and must all be taken at the same place. Everyone who participates must come to Vancouver.

Will I be notified of the results?
Yes. The doctor in charge of the study will notify your personal doctor of any results that he finds. Your personal doctor will tell you the results.

Can I get results from this website?
Any findings that the scientists discover will be published in the quarterly Heat and Frost Local 118 newsletter and in the blog on this website.


BC Insulators – Heat and Frost Local 118
Tel: 604-877-0909
Fax: 604-877-0926
Toll Free: 1-800-663-2738