30 july 2012

Canada's asbestos policy shameful, say epidemiologists


(Jacques Boissinot/Canadian Press)
Canadian and International organizations released a statment July 24, 2012 calling for a global ban on the mining and exporting of asbestos.

A joint committee of epidemiologist societies around the world is calling for a global ban on the mining, use and export of all forms of asbestos. Its statement has been endorsed by more than 150 Canadian and international public health, civil society organizations and individual scientists from twenty countries.

This comes at a time when the Canadian province of Quebec has approved a $58 million loan to reopen and expand the only asbestos mine left in Canada. The scientists call Canada’s policy on asbestos shameful. RCI’s Lynn Desjardins found out more.
“Continued use of asbestos will lead to a public health disaster of asbestos-related illness and premature death for decades to come,” said Dr. Stanley Weill, chair of the Joint Policy Committee of the Societies of Epidemiology. “We call specifically on the major asbestos exporting countries—Brazil, Canada, Kazakhstan, and Russia –to respect the right to health by ceasing the mining, use, and export of asbestos.”

The Quebec government says its position is based on scientific studies showing that it is possible to safely use the kind of asbestos fibre called chrysotile and that the majority of health problems workers have are because of past use of a different fibre.

The U-N’s World Health Organization states “All types of asbestos cause cancer.”

The epidemiologists are particularly concerned that asbestos producers are marketing their product to developing countries which often do not have adequate safety standards.

“Look at the terrible double standard that Canada adopts and lives by; it’s shameful,” said Prof. Colin Soskolne, past president of the Joint Policy Committee of the Societies of Epidemiology. “We don’t use asbestos within Canada. We spend millions removing it from the houses of parliament, Sussex Drive (the prime minister’s residence), from schools, from public buildings.”

In an e-mail the government of Quebec defended the plan to reopen the mine and export asbestos stating that it continues its efforts to inform importing countries about asbestos, that it will develop a protocol and manual for the safe handling of asbestos,  and that the mine will only sell to clients who agree to implement both the manual and the protocol. Both the governments of Canada  and Quebec support the re-opening of the Jeffrey Mine in spite of lobbying from doctors groups and civil organizations.

“This is a very perverse decision, very disappointing and a shameful position for Canada to be taking,” said Prof. Soskolne. “Why does Canada take such a position? Many of us wish we could understand it. It would seem that the reason is that it’s business above all else and there’s just no regard for the health of other people in other parts of the world."

In response to an interview request, the Canadian government department responsible, Industry Canada sent the following e-mail message; "For over 30 years, the Government of Canada has promoted the safe and controlled use of chrysotile.

Scientific reviews confirm that chrysotile fibres can be used safely under controlled conditions."

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31 July 2012 - 17:07

Canadians would do well to listen to this doctor. Our political track record with asbestos proves a shameful double-standard, unacceptable in a first world country like ours!

Sent by Sheryl Thompson, Vancouver, Ca nada

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