Canada’s move to ban asbestos a ‘win for public health’ but long overdue: advocates – by Tavia Grant (Globe and Mail – December 16, 2016)

Canada will ban asbestos use by 2018, in what many health advocates hail as a victory for public health, albeit one that is long overdue. The federal government’s move is aimed at eventually reducing the rate of asbestos-related diseases. The hard work lies ahead, though, as the country deals with the deadly legacy of asbestos that exists in everything from homes and hospitals to elementary schools and universities.

“When it comes to asbestos, the science is … very clear,” Health Minister Jane Philpott said at a news conference Thursday. “We are taking action on this now to protect future generations of Canadians.”

The announcement comes after years of Globe and Mail coverage on the health impact of asbestos exposures, risks which had been played down by previous federal governments. Last week, The Globe reported on new annual numbers showing that asbestos remains the top cause of workplace deaths in Canada.

The decision brings Canada in line with more than 50 other countries, that have banned the known carcinogen and comes after decades of lobbying from health experts, labour unions and those who have lost family members to asbestos-related diseases.

Canada began mining asbestos in the 1870s, and became one of the world’s largest producers, before its last asbestos mines closed in 2011. Thursday was a bittersweet day for Michaela Keyserlingk, whose husband of 47 years died in 2009 of mesothelioma, after exposure as a cadet in the Canadian navy.

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