andrew schneider investigates

February 22, 2008

Canadian officials ignore asbestos risk

Filed under: Asbestos,Environmental health issues,Public health legislation — Andrew Schneider @ 10:03

Canadian health and environmental experts say their government still is putting politics before health and is ignoring studies from around the world showing that the chrysotile asbestos mined in Quebec causes cancer and death. Meanwhile, south of the border, members of the US. House of Representative are completing work on legislation to institute a complete ban on asbestos in the U.S. Public health advocates say the House bill is needed because the legislation the Senate passed last year was watered down to the point of being useless.

Canadian health specialists showed link to deaths of asbestos workers from the country’s last asbestos mining region in Asbestos, Que. Other government officials ignored the study. Photo by Andrew Schneider

Toronto Globe and Mail reporter Martin Mittelstaedt writes that the World Health Organization says the chrysotile variety of asbestos is a health hazard and recommends its use be stopped to prevent cancer. So does the Canadian Cancer Society, and other respected public health agencies. But not Health Canada.

Mittelstaedt writes that the Canadian health agency has quietly begun a study on the dangers of the asbestos type, the last remaining variety of the controversial mineral in widespread commercial use and the only one produced by mines in Canada. But many public health advocates say repeated scientific reviews by respected international bodies have already found that all types of asbestos, including Canada’s, cause cancer.

Critics say the government hopes the research might help sway opinion at key international talks, known as the Rotterdam Convention, which are scheduled for later this year and will discuss placing chrysotile on the list of the world’s most hazardous substances.

Canada led efforts to scuttle the listing at the last round of these UN-sponsored talks two years ago.

The only remaining Canadian asbestos mines are in Quebec, where parts of the labor movement support continued extraction of the resource.


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