Last week, four federal ministers – those of health, science, environment and public procurement – announced at a press conference in Ottawa that the federal government would ban asbestos and products containing the deadly mineral by 2018. Canada will join more than 50 other countries who have already banned asbestos, reports The Globe and Mail.
The U.S. is not among those countries that have enacted total bans.
Canadian asbestos health data
Asbestos has wreaked havoc on the health of Canadians. For example, the article cites an officer of the Canadian Cancer Society for the statistic that at least 10,000 people in Canada have died from asbestos-related diseases in the past decade. In addition, new annual data identifies asbestos as the leading cause of Canadian workplace fatalities, according to The Globe and Mail.
The Occupational Cancer Research Centre is sourced in the article for the figure that over 2,000 people in Canada are newly diagnosed with asbestos-related cancer like lung cancer and mesothelioma, a deadly cancer of the lining around major organs, especially of the lungs. Hopefully, this ban will eventually lower this number, but it can take decades for these diseases to develop, so the change will likely be gradual.
Canadian government plans
The piece describes several government steps planned toward a 2018 ban, including:
- Cataloging asbestos uses
- Evaluating methods to control use
- Drafting appropriate regulation to ban “manufacture, use, import and export” of products containing asbestos
- Creating new work-safety rules to severely limit workplace asbestos exposure
- Raising public knowledge about the health risks of asbestos
- Listing more buildings owned or rented by the federal government that contain the mineral
- Coordinating with provincial governments to ban via building codes asbestos in construction and renovation
- And more
In addition, the government is reportedly reconsidering the long-held Canadian position not to include asbestos as a hazardous material pursuant to the international Rotterdam Convention.
The upcoming Canadian asbestos ban is an extremely important step forward for the world and for a country that has historically resisted limiting asbestos use, which has been relatively robust. Opponents of asbestos in the U.S. will watch developments up north with great interest.