Though it has been a long fight, the government of Canada announced a ban on asbestos and asbestos-containing products to be instituted in 2018.
A long history of mining asbestos
Throughout many decades, asbestos was mined, exported, and used by Canadians. In 2012, the last Canadian asbestos mine was closed in Quebec – a province that once boasted the largest asbestos mine in the world. This ban is an amazing achievement as Quebec was the center of asbestos mining in Canada, with a strong lobby and the support of all political parties in Canada’s House of Commons less than a decade ago.
Why did a pro-asbestos government change its direction?
A number of factors contributed to the change, including outspoken groups of doctors, epidemiologists, and healthcare workers. Changing the status quo mindset was difficult, but through open letters in the media, video footage showing the workers in India handling the dusty bags of asbestos, and years of The Globe and Mail coverage warning of the health impact, the public began to realize the true dangers – and costs – of asbestos.
What are the dangers of asbestos?
When disturbed in mining, or in any situation that creates asbestos dust, there is an opportunity for people to inhale the miniscule fibers into their lungs. Exposure can lead to diseases that may not be evident for 50 years. These diseases include mesothelioma, a deadly disease, lung cancer, and asbestosis. Exposure can occur through direct contact, such as in an occupation, or by something as seemingly harmless as a hug from someone wearing contaminated clothing or by washing that clothing.
What does this asbestos ban include?
It will ban “the manufacture, use, import and export of asbestos containing products, such as building materials and brake pads” and set up new workplace health and safety regulations limiting on-the-job exposures. It will also include expansion of the list containing names of asbestos-containing buildings owned or leased by the Government of Canada. There will be a move to educate all Canadians on the dangers of asbestos.
All is still not resolved, however, as the mining and processing of asbestos tailings for the extraction of magnesium, will not be included in the ban.
In addition, the Canadian representatives to the Rotterdam Convention, have not determined if they will vote to list asbestos as a hazardous material at the next international meeting. This is still in review.
The Honourable Catherine McKenna, Minister of Environment and Climate Change stated, “The Prime Minister made a commitment to move forward on a ban on asbestos and asbestos-containing products in Canada. Today, we are delivering on that promise. We will put in place the best regulatory measures to protect the health and safety of Canadians as we move forward towards a complete ban on asbestos.”
Banning asbestos in the USA
As yet, there has been no comprehensive ban on asbestos in the US. Perhaps this turnaround view from Canada will provide momentum on the push to totally ban asbestos in the United States.