Lancet journal criticizes Canada’s asbestos hypocrisy

SEM photo of Chrysotile.
Image via Wikipedia

The contentious issue of asbestos mining and export has been brewing in Canada for years (see Quebec’s asbestos industry faces off against health experts).

Mining for the mineral in Quebec continues today (with industry proponents peddling asbestos on the world market) even though the substance has been linked to many adverse health effects. See the Canadian Medical Association for a long list of peer-reviewed articles on the topic.

The medical community is unanimous in stressing the health hazards related to asbestos, and also in calling for tighter regulations in the global trade of the substance. Canada, however, is one of the only developed counties to fight against any further controls on asbestos.

Recently, the highly respected medical journal, Lancet, joined the fray with fresh condemnation for Canada’s policies in this area. In a report released in December 2010 (“Canada accused of hypocrisy over asbestos exports“) author Tony Kirby writes:

Canada is actively removing asbestos from its buildings, and has a de-facto ban on using the substance in any form in all but exceptional circumstances. But unlike other rich nations, Canada has been a major exporter of chrysotile, or white asbestos. It was the world’s fourth biggest exporter (behind Russia, Kazakhstan, and Brazil) shipping about 150 000 tonnes per year to developing countries such as India, Indonesia, and the Philippines, where little or no protection exists for workers or exposed populations. Asbestos-laden products such as piping, roofing, and cement are widely dispersed in developing countries and are cut, sawn, and hammered, with many workers not knowing that they contain asbestos or even what asbestos is. Canada has also vetoed attempts by WHO and the international community to include chrysotile in the Rotterdam Convention–a UN-sponsored list of controlled substances–which officially alerts importing nations to risks associated with that substance.

Health effects:

The long-term and very serious effects from asbestos are well-documented. But many people throughout the world do not understand the risks or the symptoms. Mesothelioma Web is a very comprehensive website dedicated to providing information and support to those who have been exposed to asbestos, and the sickness it often causes, called mesothelioma.

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