Elliot Lake mall tragedy may have exposed crowds, rescuers to asbestos

A worker is seen in the rubble at the Algo Centre Mall in Elliot Lake, Ontario June 27, 2012.The collapse of Algo Centre Mall may not have been the end of the dangers posed by the structure: a report shows that there may have been asbestos in the rubble, too.

Based on a 2005 report obtained by Global News, an environmental assessment of Algo Centre Mall revealed that asbestos-laced materials had been used in the construction of the mall. When the building collapsed, the dust stirred up by the demolition of the building may have released asbestos into the air, exposing both rescuers and those keeping vigil on the perimeter of the site.

[ Related: Elliot Lake mall has issues for years before roof collapse ]

According to the report, parging cement (used to waterproof the outer walls) and ceiling titles containing asbestos were used in the construction of the mall, with suspicions that the vinyl tiles and roof drain lines may have also contained the restricted substance.

While the report indicates that the asbestos levels in the mall in 2005 were not a threat, it did suggest that the collapse may have increased the chances of it becoming a harmful substance:

"Once asbestos-containing materials are disturbed, asbestos fibres may be airborne and pose health concerns," Global News quotes from the report.

Elliot Lake mayor Rick Hamilton says that he wasn't aware of the asbestos in the mall at the time of the collapse, and like much of the rest of the town, was gathered near the site to monitor the cleanup efforts.

Hamilton says that he'll make sure anybody who was near the mall during the collapse and cleanup will be made aware of the potential health risk.

[ Related: Critics slam Jean Charest for jump-starting asbestos industry ]

According to the Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety, long-term exposure to asbestos can lead to fibrotic lung cancer (asbestosis) and changes to the lining of the chest cavity, both of which can cause reduced respiratory function and death. The U.S. Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry states that short-term exposure to asbestos orally can result in "precursor lesions of colon cancer."

(Reuters photo)