Canada closed asbestos mines a decade ago but continued to allow limited use of the deadly mineral.

Canada closed asbestos mines a decade ago but continued to allow limited use of the deadly mineral.
Photo Credit: Jacques Boissinot/Canadian Press

Canadian government finally will ban asbestos


After years of resisting pressure from health and labour organizations, the Canadian government has decided to ban all products containing asbestos by 2018. It will also stop obstructing international efforts to list asbestos as a hazardous substance.

Canada used to mine, produce asbestos and export asbestos even though the World Health Organization declared it to be a carcinogen in 1987. Even tiny amounts of the mineral fibre can cause lung cancer and mesothelioma, a deadly and aggressive cancer.

More people will die

More than 2,000 Canadians die annually from illness caused by their exposure to asbestos and will continue to do so since the illnesses take a long time to develop. Many Canadian homes and buildings still contain asbestos, which is not dangerous if it is embedded in other materials and remains undisturbed.

The government will toughen federal rules to protect workers coming into contact with asbestos.
The government will toughen federal rules to protect workers coming into contact with asbestos. © CBC

The government plans to:

-establish new workplace and safety rules to limit the risk of people who come into contact with asbestos on the job.

-expand its list of asbestos-containing buildings owned or leased by the government of Canada.

-ban the manufacture, use, import and export of asbestos.

-change its international position and agree to list asbestos as a hazardous material at the next meeting of the Rotterdam Convention.

-raise awareness of the health impacts of asbestos in a bid to reduce disease.

Unions cheer

The Canadian Labour Congress which represents 3.3 million workers issued a news release celebrating the decision, as did  Canada’s Building Trades Unions representing more than 500,000 skilled trades workers.

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