Five years after Canada banned asbestos, industry clings on in India despite health concerns – by James Griffiths (Globe and Mail – October 30, 2023)

Sitting inside his house in central New Delhi, Raja Singh leafs through folders packed with petitions, freedom-of-information requests and hard-won data from hospitals and local governments across India. Dr. Singh is one of a number of researchers and activists who have spent years trying to prove something long accepted in most of the world: Asbestos is a danger to public health.

“There’s a lot of talk that there is no mesothelioma in India,” Dr. Singh told The Globe and Mail, referring to a type of cancer almost always caused by asbestos. “But I’ve gone and looked at each and every record available, and there are cases even in pretty small registries.”

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Toxic Towns: Don’t hold your breath – by Malone Mullin (CBC News Interactives – November 28, 2022)

In Baie Verte, N.L., a mine that once brought prosperity now symbolizes pain, suffering and death. Nobody knows how to get rid of it.

This is Part I of a three-part series on contaminated sites in Newfoundland and Labrador.

In Émile Zola’s 1885 novel Germinal, a French mining town, filled with families dependent on coal, is plotting a strike. It’s not an idyllic existence, living in 19th-century Montsou. Workers and their families sleep in shacks, eat mostly bread and rarely embrace leisure.

Eventually, they’re consumed by the massive beast whose tendrils reach deep underground. The mine, named Le Voreux, holds such sway over the townspeople’s lives that it transforms into a character in itself; figuratively speaking, by the end of the book, it eats its servants alive.

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OPINION: The asbestos industry is fanning the flames of resentment. We must make them stop – by Kathleen Ruff (National Observer – August 17th 2021)

The asbestos issue is back on the agenda of the Quebec and Canadian governments, with multibillion-dollar projects to extract magnesium and other minerals from the mountains of waste left by asbestos mining companies. According to Quebec government health authorities, the waste contains up to 40 per cent asbestos. Houses, schools and public buildings are nearby.

The projects require moving the waste, thus disturbing the asbestos fibres and presenting a serious health risk to workers and the community. A pilot project is underway. The final decision from the Quebec government is pending.

All 17 Quebec directors of public health asked the federal government to include asbestos mining waste in its regulations to ban asbestos. The government rejected their request, exempted the mining waste and invested $12 million in the projects.

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The inspiration for revolution: Unhealthy working conditions and low wages led asbestos miners to launch a strike that left a lasting legacy in Quebec’s history – by Mehanaz Yakub (CIM Magazine – June 21, 2021)

When the clock struck midnight on February 14, 1949, the normally quiet streets of the small town of Asbestos, Quebec, were packed with nearly 2,000 workers from the Jeffrey Mine who were ready to go on strike.

Later that Valentine’s Day morning, 3,000 more miners from the neighbouring Thetford Mine joined the walkout, and what followed was one of the longest and most brutal labour disputes in the province’s history.

Since the late 19th century, Quebec, and especially Asbestos, was the largest producer and exporter of the eponymous mineral. Asbestos was popularly used for insulation, soundproofing and fireproofing, and American and English-Canadian owned companies, such as Johns-Manville, Asbestos Corp., and Flintkote all set up operations around Quebec’s Eastern Townships.

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Quebec town of Asbestos votes to change name to Val-des-Sources – by Eric Andrew-Gee (Globe and Mail – October 20, 2020)

The town of Asbestos, Que., has finally chosen a new name: Val-des-Sources. The former mining community two hours east of Montreal, long synonymous with the carcinogenic substance it produced for more than a century, will make the change pending provincial approval.

Municipal officials decided to rechristen the town last year as a way of spurring economic development, long stalled by the grim associations of its namesake mineral.

The new moniker, which refers to the valleys and bodies of water of the surrounding landscape, as well as the figurative source of future hopes, received 48 per cent of first-place votes in a ranked ballot with six options.

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After years of debate, Asbestos, Que. is getting a new name in hopes it will help the economy – by Eric Andrew-Gee (Globe and Mail – October 19, 2020)

The owners of Moulin 7, a microbrewery in Asbestos, Que., are not embarrassed by the name of their town. In fact, the pub, run by high-school friends Yan St-Hilaire and Danick Pellerin, is downright asbestos-themed.

The beer selection includes White Gold, a nickname from the mineral’s heyday. A photo of the gaping Jeffrey Mine hangs behind the bar. The pair once even made a batch of suds from the bright blue water that started to fill the pit once operations stopped nearly a decade ago. (They tested it; it was asbestos-free.)

But despite their defiant pride in the town’s past, they are among the residents who support its rechristening. The brewers are about to get their wish.

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Asbestos’s name isn’t its only problem — there’s also the gigantic mine – by Colby Cosh (National Post – September 23, 2020)

There is no shortage of horror stories about international reactions to the name of Asbestos, Quebec, although these mostly take the form of folklore.

At this point in history, I’m pretty sure the town of Asbestos in Quebec is more famous for trying unsuccessfully to change its name than it is for being the location of a gigantic asbestos mine.

In November, the Asbestos town council voted to commence the name change that local businessmen and entrepreneurs had wanted since the turn of the century, although mere citizens weren’t so keen.

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Canadian Town of ‘Asbestos’ Close to Name Change – by Devin Golden (Mesothelioma Guide – September 22, 2020)


What’s in a name? The people in a small Canadian town called “Asbestos” will tell you that a lot of baggage is in theirs. Fortunately, the town’s leaders and residents are taking steps to put their troubled identity behind them.

The town in southeastern Quebec is changing its name, and hopefully its asbestos reputation along with it. The four options on the table currently are:

-Phenix, for the mythical bird reborn from fire
-Apalone, an endangered turtle species
-Trois-Lacs, a neighborhood in the town
-Jeffrey, the name of the town’s largest asbestos mine deposit

The town’s mayor announced these four finalists last week in a city council meeting. The residents will vote on the town’s new name in October.

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Town called Asbestos to rename itself after people ‘scared away’ – by Vincent Wood (Independent – December 1, 2019)

The town of Asbestos, Canada will seek a new name after acknowledging that the moniker “does not have a good connotation – particularly in English-speaking circles”

Founded in 1899 and named for the “grey gold” found in its surrounding hills, the French-speaking town in Quebec once boasted a thriving mining community. However the mine suspended operations in 2011, with the municipal government of Quebec cancelling a $58million loan promised to reopen it a year later.

Now the town has said it needs to move past its heritage for harvesting the hazardous mineral. “As the word ‘Asbestos’ does not have a good connotation, particularly in English-speaking circles, it is a brake on the city’s willingness to develop economic relations abroad,” the local authority said in a statement.

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Tired of being linked to toxic substance, the Quebec town of Asbestos is changing its name – by Amy Luft (CTV News Montreal – November 27, 2018)

ASBESTOS — The Quebec town of Asbestos is tired of the negative connotation of its name – so it’s getting a new one. Town officials said in a news release Wednesday that municipal council has agreed to a name change following “several reflections and with a view to development oriented towards the future.”

Mayor Hugues Grimard said Wednesday the name carries an unfortunate connotation and it’s preventing the town from developing foreign business ties.

“If we want to go further in terms of economic development, then we don’t have the choice,” Grimard said in an interview. “The media attention of our past stays with us any time we do anything.”

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The Carbon Market Potential of Asbestos Mine Waste – by Laura Poppick (Eos Magazine – May 6, 2019)

Eos Magazine

Researchers have devised new methods to turn toxic asbestos mine tailings into innocuous piles of carbonate rock and draw down atmospheric carbon dioxide at the same time.

Once celebrated for its heat resistance and durability, asbestos has now become synonymous with “hazardous” due to the health threats it poses when its tiny fibrils become airborne.

As a result, the material has been phased out of most consumer products. But the legacy of asbestos mining in Canada and elsewhere around the world has left piles of hazardous material stranded at abandoned mines, with ongoing health threats to those living in close proximity.

Now researchers are looking for ways to clean up and repurpose that waste, all while trying to slow climate change. Jenine McCutcheon, a geomicrobiologist at the University of Leeds in the United Kingdom, has worked with colleagues to develop techniques that could turn abandoned asbestos tailings into deposits of magnesium carbonate, a group of minerals that includes the white powder that gymnasts and rock climbers use to improve their grip.

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In Asbest, Russia, Making Asbestos Great Again – by Andrew Higgins (New York Times – April 7, 2019)

ASBEST, Russia — Sniped at for decades by health advocates, Russia’s doggedly defiant producer of asbestos — a substance banned as a killer by more than 60 countries — thinks it has perhaps finally found the perfect figure for a campaign to rehabilitate the product’s deeply stained image: President Trump.

“Trump is on our side,” said Vladimir V. Kochelayev, chairman of the board of Uralasbest, one of the world’s few remaining producers of asbestos, citing what he said were reports that the Trump administration was easing restrictions on asbestos use.

The United States stopped mining asbestos in 2002, but the material still pours onto the world market from a huge hole in the ground in Russia’s Ural Mountains.

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OPINION: Banning asbestos is a victory for all Canadians. But the fight is not over – by Hassan Yussuff (Globe and Mail – February 12, 2019)

Hassan Yussuff is the president of the Canadian Labour Congress.

In my 20s and 30s, I worked as a mechanic in tight spaces under vehicles, handling clutches and brake pads without any protective gear. That meant I was exposed to asbestos, placing me among the more than 150,000 Canadians estimated to have come into contact with this deadly substance at work, many of whom work in construction, auto maintenance, ship building, waste management and remediation.

I have been lucky that it has not yet impacted my health. But for far too long, thousands of families have been shattered by the death of a loved one from asbestos-related diseases. It is estimated that 100,000 people worldwide die from such illnesses and that there are 2,000 new asbestos-related cancer cases each year in Canada, most of them fatal.

The enactment of a federal ban of asbestos and asbestos-containing products in December – the product of a hard fight by Canada’s unions, health advocates and affected families – is a significant step in the right direction. So too was the accompanying endorsement for listing chrysotile asbestos in the Rotterdam Convention, a multilateral treaty around the trade of hazardous materials.

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The End of a Once Mighty, Still Deadly Industry: the Canada Letter – by Ian Austen (New York Times – October 19, 2018)

Canada’s positions on issues like same-sex marriage, immigration and, most recently, recreational marijuana have given it a reputation for progressiveness. But the government’s announcement this week that it was banning asbestos, a potent cause of cancer, came decades after many other nations took the step.

For more than a century, asbestos was a ubiquitous miracle fiber. Sprayed on the steel structure of buildings and inside ships, it suppressed fires. It was found in a type of home insulation and in roofing tiles, and was used to seal heating ducts.

Asbestos was mixed with concrete to make pipes, woven into flameproof fabrics, and made into gaskets, building supplies and a variety of industrial goods. But inhaling even small quantities of its fibers could be deadly.

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Canada’s ban on asbestos to take effect but mining residues are exempt – by Mia Rabson (Financial Post – October 17, 2018)

CANADIAN PRESS – OTTAWA — Canada’s new asbestos ban will not prevent companies in Quebec from sifting through the waste left over from decades of mining asbestos to look for magnesium.

Environment Minister Catherine McKenna is set to announce the new regulations on Thursday in Ottawa after cabinet gave the nod of approval to them at the end of September.

The regulations, which will take effect at the end of the year, bar the import, sale or use of processed asbestos fibres and products containing them, as well as consumer products that have more than trace amounts of asbestos. They also forbid the manufacture of products using processed asbestos fibres.

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