Canada, having closed its last asbestos mine in 2011, is moving forward with a proposal to stop the “use, sale, import and export” of asbestos and asbestos-containing products. The full ban is expected sometime in 2018. Canada reported approximately 1,900 lung cancer cases and 430 mesothelioma cases in 2011. Besides the human suffering and loss of life, each case costs the health system of Canada over $1 million. The danger of asbestos exposure has been known for decades. More than thirty years ago the World Health Organization declared it a human carcinogen.
The proposal is sponsored by the Canadian federal health and environment departments. Catherine McKenna, Environment and Climate Change Minister, stated, “By launching these new tougher rules to stop the manufacture, import, use and sale of asbestos, we are following through on our promises to protect all Canadians from exposure to this toxic substance.”
Is it enough?
According to Kathleen Ruff, long an advocate for a total asbestos ban, said the proposal is a good start, but there is more to be done. She believes the citizens of Canada are unaware of the hazards still present in buildings throughout the country and recommends a national registry of asbestos-containing buildings, as well as comprehensive standards for asbestos abatement. She is also concerned with the exemptions in the proposal – most affecting cleanup around the land of former mines as millions of tons of residue are disturbed. This could potentially release the deadly fibers into the air for workers to inhale.
Time for action
Hassan Yussuff, president of the Canadian Labour Congress, said, “I’m hoping this federal initiative will spur the provinces to do more, because we’ve got far more to do at the provincial level now with the federal government finally getting onside to banning asbestos.”
Though this is overall a necessary move for the country, it will have detractors since certain industries will be affected. These include cement pipe manufacturers, automotive businesses importing brake pads, and any business that imports and uses asbestos-containing parts.
One by one, countries are realizing and acting on the banning asbestos, but it is a struggle. The United States has still not banned its use completely. With a period of decades between exposure and disease diagnosis, the world will continue to lose people from asbestos for the foreseeable future. Canada’s proposal is a step in the right direction.