The Canadian Cancer Society is set to announce today that they endorse a ban on the export of asbestos and believe the federal government should stop blocking international efforts to curb the trade in the toxic mineral, which is currently banned in 40 countries.
An article in the Globe and Mail points out that this is a bold step for the organization, whose statement will be in opposition to the opinions of most of Canada’s governmental officials, who believe asbestos can be used safely and should be promoted. Along with Russia and China, Canada is one of the largest exporters of asbestos in the world, with most of its mines located in the province of Quebec.
The article notes that about 95% of Canada’s asbestos is imported to developing countries, such as India, Indonesia, and Thailand, who use it for cheap building materials despite the apparent health threats connected with the use of the mineral. Substitutes for asbestos are readily available.
The cancer society had been prepared to present an asbestos policy that would have largely backed the federal government’s position that it can be safely used provided those importing it are informed of its health risks, according to a draft of the policy viewed by The Globe and Mail.
But the positions in the draft outraged many occupational health groups and anti-cancer advocates, who believed the Canadian Cancer Society would be damaging their own credibility if they sided with the government on this issue. Instead, the group will issue a statement that says they believe the use of asbestos should be eliminated, which in effect is a call for a ban.
The cancer society will also recommend that the federal government stop trying to block efforts by the Rotterdam Convention, a UN-organized body, at its meeting in 2008, to place the variety of asbestos mined in Canada on the list of the world’s most dangerous substances.
As Canada does not track deaths caused by asbestos exposure, exact numbers of Canadian casualties from the mineral are not available. National health experts, however, believe there have been thousands of premature deaths from exposure, especially in and near the Quebec mining towns.