Waste & Recycling


Canada's asbestos exports

The Summer 2009 edition of HazMat Management magazine is out, with its Editorial on asbestos (“Canada’s Chrysotile Tears”). I thought readers might also find the following article on asbestos issues interesting, sent to me by Richard Moyle, National Awareness Coordinator of the Mesothelioma Center (Asbestos.com)
Canada Continues to Export Asbestos
While many countries all over the world have placed bans on asbestos, Canada continues to export the toxic mineral to numerous developing countries, including India, Pakistan and Vietnam.
Consequently, Pat Martin, Winnipeg Member of Parliament, is attempting to make the House of Commons proclaim April Fools Day (April 1) an asbestos awareness day for asbestos-related diseases. “We’ve fooled the world with phony science for too long,” Martin says. Much of Martin’s passion on this subject comes from the fact that he spent two years in his youth mining asbestos in the Yukon, completely unaware of the potentially fatal affects.
While asbestos was used throughout the 20th century in many capacities due to it fire-resistant and durable qualities, exposure to it is now considered the only known cause of a rare and aggressive cancer known as mesothelioma.
Mesothelioma does not typically begin to show noticeable symptoms until anywhere from 25 to 50 years after exposure. Because of this, the cancer is not usually diagnosed until it is already in its advanced stages making effective treatment difficult. The average mesothelioma survival rate after diagnosis is about one year.
As of April 2009, Canada is exporting more than 200,000 tons of asbestos each year. In 2005, 61 percent of work-related deaths in Canada were the result of asbestos exposure, totaling 340 people.
While the government is still evaluating Martin’s proposal for an awareness day, the Canadian Cancer Society is in full support of Martin and wants some type of asbestos ban to take effect. They have already asked Prime Minister Stephen Harper to set a timeline for phasing out the use and export of Canada’s chrysotile asbestos.
Many people are under the impression that chrysotile asbestos is less dangerous than other forms of asbestos, but a spokesperson for the Canadian Cancer Society said, “We are stating factually that all forms of asbestos cause cancer.”
The last remaining active asbestos mine in Canada is located in Quebec, which exports 90 percent of all the asbestos that it produces.
The World Health Organization lists asbestos as a cancer-causing substance and reports 90,000 people worldwide die from an asbestos-related disease every year. More than 40 countries have already banned the use of chrysotile asbestos, including the United Kingdom, which banned the import and use of the hazardous material in 1999.
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