Are We Close to a Global Ban on Asbestos?

While we’ve yet to discuss it in depth, Canada, like the United States, is one of the few developed countries that has not banned asbestos. However, Canada has a curious approach; asbestos can’t be used in Canada, but the country continues to manufacture and export the product. While Ban Asbestos Now! is focused on outlawing the material in the U.S., recent developments have made Canada’s asbestos debate relevant to our own.

At the center of the debate is chrysotile, one of the many types of asbestos. Canada is the fifth largest exporter of chrysotile in the world, with almost all of these products containing asbestos being sent to developing countries where appropriate safety measures and policies are not in place. Given the health risks associated with asbestos exposure, some advocates have said Canada essentially is “exporting death.”

Even more troubling are the actions taken to support this industry. The “Chrysotile Institute” is a non-profit organization set up by the Canadian government to promote the use of asbestos around the world, and the Quebec government is close to guaranteeing a $58 million loan to re-open an asbestos mine.

These are seemingly all steps in the wrong direction. But while these actions are propping up Canada’s asbestos industry, many powerful – and more importantly, international – groups are stepping in to urge Canada to stop mining and exporting asbestos altogether. Citing the link between asbestos and diseases like lung cancer and mesothelioma, these scientists and health organizations are adding further credibility to the BAN! movement – as well as boosting it on a global scale.

The groups demanding a ban on asbestos mining include the Canadian Medical Association, Canadian Public Health Association, National Specialty Society for Community Medicine, and the Collegium Ramazzini, an independent group of academic experts in environmental and occupational health.

According to the World Health Organization, an estimated 90,000 people die from asbestos-related diseases every year. Clearly, the asbestos problem extends beyond borders and needs addressed as such. Hopefully the call for a ban in Canada continues to gain steam and prompts our US government to look at itself as well and join the global community in banning this cancer-causing material.