Dozens of roads and streets in Calgary, Canada are contaminated with potentially toxic levels of asbestos fibers, according to a report prepared by Calgary city officials. Core samples from 34 roads taken in March of 2008 show that more than half – 21 in all – contain asbestos. Asbestos was used as a component of Canadian road coverings and paving up until 1985. Asbestos was found in major roads, many of which have undergone significant construction or repair work over the years, making it quite possible that unwitting street construction workers or passers-by have been exposed to the deadly substance without even realizing it. In addition, Calgary uses recycled asphalt for new roads and repair work, meaning that asbestos from the old asphalt could easily be re-introduced into new road and street construction.
The report was obtained by the Sun, a Calgary newspaper, and was made public in the same time period as a scandal erupted in Toronto, where city officials have told residents of the North York borough to avoid road construction zones after discovering measurable levels of asbestos in the asphalt being repaired. Area residents have been told by Toronto health officials to close windows and doors, and even to stay away from their homes while the road work is being performed. Calgary officials claim that the city tested the asphalt several years ago and concluded that there was little public health risk, as the asbestos could not escape from the asphalt containing it. However, officials were not able to produce that report when the point was pressed by media figures. A spokeswoman for the Calgary municipal government claimed that the city would be testing the asphalt over the summer to ensure the public safety. Calgary alderman John Mar says that he intends to hold the city officials accountable, saying that “We need to be concerned about the health and safety of all Calgarians — this is scary. I’m going to ask these questions of administration on (July 28) to find out just what risk there is from the asbestos.”