Monday, 28 October 2013

Asbestos Legislation in Canada

In Canada, the laws concerning asbestos can at times appear contradictory. The country has put nationwide regulations in place banning the use of certain types of asbestos in many products, yet the country continues to export chrysotile asbestos to developing countries around the world, a scenario that many Canadians find to be quite perplexing.

Asbestos legislation in Canada can best be characterized as a struggle between the government and the asbestos industry, opposed by medical organizations, labor unions and concerned citizens who truly understand the dangers of asbestos use. Recently, a number of politicians have supported the asbestos ban, rallying to pass laws that will eventually lower Canada’s startlingly-high rate of asbestos-related deaths. Many people, however, still defend the industry.

Regulations on Asbestos Use

The Canadian Government has indeed imposed some regulations on asbestos use. According to Health Canada, "The sale of pure asbestos and certain high-risk consumer products that are composed of or contain asbestos fibres is strictly regulated under the Hazardous Products Act. In addition, the emissions of asbestos into the environment from mining and milling operations are subject to the Canadian Environmental Protection Act."

Currently, the country is spending billions of dollars to remove asbestos from schools, factories, plants and other commercial buildings.

Until just recently, laws permitted the use of chrysotile asbestos in certain children̢۪s toys in Canada, and as recently as 2010, the government was considering the possibility of reopening the open pit Jeffrey Mine in Quebec, which would allow the asbestos exports industry to grow. Proponents claim that the industry promotes safe use of asbestos in the countries to which they sell. Those who oppose the asbestos exports industry claim that most of these countries do not have proper health and safety regulations in place to regulate use of the material.

Due to the controversy surrounding the asbestos industry in Canada, it is not expected that an overall ban on asbestos will happen soon. Canada successfully led a campaign to block the listing of asbestos as a toxic material on the Prior Informed Consent list at the Rotterdam Convention in 2004 and then again in 2008, backed by a number of other countries with an interest in asbestos mining.

Health Canada Study

In early 2008, it was revealed that Health Canada had quietly begun a study on the dangers of chrysotile asbestos. The organization said it was undertaking the research to "help further Canada's knowledge of chrysotile asbestos fibres in relation to human health" and to update the World Health Organization's last published assessment on the subject from 1998.

Unfortunately, the two scientists on the project were supporters of the chrysotile asbestos industry, and the organization refused to announce when the results of the study would be released. In a written statement, Health Canada said that they found chrysotile asbestos to be "safe when used under controlled conditions," and safe use of the material would be regulated by Canada both domestically and abroad.

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