Canada’s New Democrats Call For an End to Asbestos

You may remember an article here from last month about Canada’s asbestos industry (see “Ottawa and Moscow Drop the Ball on Asbestos” posted on 1 November). Canada, along with China and Russia, is among the last countries in the world with an active asbestos mining and manufacturing industry. Canada exports 200,000 metric tons of the material every year, primarily to developing nations. Two members of Canada’s parliament intend to change that. MP Pat Martin described asbestos as “the greatest industrial killer the world has ever known.” He is calling on Ottawa to shut down Canada’s asbestos industry altogether and to get rid of any and all laws that permit the inclusion of asbestos in consumer products–including children’s toys. The catalyst for the current outcry was the recent revelation that a popular Christmas toy manufactured in China contained tremolite asbestos in a friable, or powdered form (see “It’s Official–Asbestos Toys From China Are on U.S. Shelves” posted on 4 December).

Incredibly, recent revisions to Canada’s Hazardous Materials Act have legalized the use of asbestos-containing materials in products “used by a child in education or play.” “You would have to be insane to put asbestos in children’s toys,” said Martin, comparing it to “putting razor blades in Halloween apples.” He added, “What does that say about a government that would allow it?” Canada’s New Democrats are asking that the nation’s Ministry of Health order asbestos testing of all toys and demanding that the government repeal the recent amendments to the Hazardous Materials Act. Of course, toys are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to asbestos products, particularly in Canada where the manufacture, marketing and utilization of asbestos is officially sanctioned by the government. As has apparently been the case in the U.S. Congress, (see “Who Threw the Monkey Wrench in Mrs. Murray’s Asbestos Bill?” posted on 15 November) the Canadian Parliament has, according to the NDP, been unduly influenced by “aggressive industry lobbyists.” MP Libby Davies of Vancouver, British Columbia, has said that her country is “…exporting human misery at a staggering rateCanada should be joining the international community to stop the production of asbestos and its export.”