Toxic legacy! Canada’s Asbestos Industry

Posted by: admin  :  Category: Environment

Black Lake Asbestos Mine in Quebec,

This week is the fifth meeting of the Conference of the Parties to the Rotterdam Convention  (COP5 ) From June 20-24th

(Rotterdam Convention on the Prior Informed Consent Procedure for Certain Hazardous Chemicals and Pesticides in International Trade ) Essentially it is a multi-party treaty about trade in hazardous substances within the United Nations Environmental Program

Today Canadian Prime Minister Steven Harper refused to bend to pressure  to add chrysotile asbestos to an international trade list of toxic substances.

Asbestos is used  as insulation, as a binder in cement, and in anti-fire walls. Evidence that Asbestos is harmful is mounting and undeniable. As asbestos is being removed from homes, businesses, schools  and even the  Parliament Building in Ottawa, Canadian asbestos producers continue to promote and sell their fibre worldwide – especially to developing nations.

The danger is from small asbestos fibres inhaled by labourers. The fibres cause cancerous growths in the lungs, lung lining and abdomen but can take 20 years or more to manifest.

In 1997, Canada exported 430,000 tonnes of asbestos - more than 96% of production – most of it to the developing world.

Canada is the world’s second-largest exporter of asbestos after Russia. 1

In Europe the evidence is overwhelmingly;  Ten EU members have banned asbestos.

With startling facts like  seven out  of Canada’s top 10 markets are Third World Nations, the question of ethics needs to be raised.  In countries in Asia, Africa and Latin America workers are being exposed to deadly toxins, while in the developed world the alarm bells are sounding.

The Third World News shines more light on this issue.  The reasons seems clear;  a political stand off is at work. In Canada Quebec has the dubious distinction of operating the last asbestos mine.

The headline in the Montreal Gazette reads that Canada concedes the science is correct, yet still opposes limits on exports of this deadly fibre.

How far will the Canadian government go to protect some jobs? Why are the lives of these Canadians more valuable then that of the potential thousands  who will have the misfortune to work with this material?

Moving towards policy that protects people equally around the world needs to be a priority.

Responsibility, transparency, and calling on all countries to honour their commitments to fair and ethical practices is mandatory when it comes to workers rights around the world as well as at home.