Medical Journal Criticizes Canadian Asbestos Exportation

According to a recent Sun Sentinel article, The Lancet, a medical journal “is criticizing Canada for exporting asbestos to poor countries, joining others who have condemned the practice as hypocritical.” Although the report from the medical journal “notes that Canada virtually bans the use of asbestos,” it reports that the nation continues to be a “major exporter of chrysotile, or white asbestos,” the Sun reports. Despite the Canadian Minister of Natural Resources office claiming this practice has a “sound scientific basis,” the article criticizes Canada’s export of the dangerous material, pointing out this act is not in accordance with most wealthy nations. According to the Sentinel, “Canada is the world's fourth biggest exporter of asbestos, after Russia, Kazakhstan and Brazil.” The article claims that Canada shipped 150,000 tons of the material to foreign nations including India, Indonesia and the Philippines. The Sun further explains that in these nations “few laws exist to protect people from asbestos.” The article reports that many Canadian organizations denounce the government’s actions, calling the exportation “deplorable, shameful and unethical.” Although the Sentinel goes on to explain that asbestos occurs naturally and “can be processed for use in rooftops, piping, or building materials,” the article also points out that inhaling the material’s fibers “scars the lungs and can lead to respiratory diseases, including cancers.” Furthermore, The Sun Sentinel explains that “The World Health Organization says all types of asbestos cause cancer and more than 50 countries have banned it.” Despite these regulations, the news source reports that around 100,000 people die from asbestos-related illness every year. However, the article explains that the Canadian government “has spent millions of dollars removing asbestos from buildings across the country, including its Parliament.” According to The Sun Sentinel, Canada recently revived their asbestos exportation industry. The article reports that “With asbestos deposits dwindling in Quebec, where Canada's asbestos is mined, the industry appeared doomed.” However, the article goes on to explain that “an international consortium proposed converting a closed mine into a new operation that could produce about 260,000 ton of white asbestos a year,” thereby rejuvenating this industry in Canada. The article goes on to explain that “Quebec is considering providing a $57 million loan guarantee for the project, according to previous published statements by the provincial government.” Despite the backlash from various Canadian organizations, the article explains that the “international consortium that wants to reopen the mine claims Canadian asbestos is only sold to manufacturers with responsible use practices in place.” According to The Sun Sentinel, the consortium explained “they would use pictures to instruct people on the safe and responsible usage of asbestos.” Although Canada has taken such steps to eradicate the material from their nation, The Sun Sentinel article explains that the “Canadian government says the risks from white asbestos can be managed in controlled conditions,” reducing the health risks to “acceptable levels.” The article then quotes Kathleen Ruff, who acts as “a senior human rights adviser to the Rideau Institute, an independent research and advocacy organization in Ottawa,” who also criticizes the nation’s export of asbestos without alerting underprivileged nations of the dangers. The Sun Sentinel reports that according to Ruff, “Canada is intentionally doing harm.” According to The Sun Sentinel, Ruff believes that in addition to their continued export of this material, in 1996 “Canada led an effort to block a United Nations convention that would have made it mandatory to warn countries of hazardous substances like asbestos.” References: Cheng, Maria. (December 8, 2010) “Medical journal joins others in condemning Canadian exports of asbestos to poor countries.” Retrieved December 14, 2010 from The Sun Sentinel. Previous: Asbestos Regulation Established Through the EPA Next: A Look at Asbestos Laws and Regulations