Archive | Asbestos

Canada’s toxic asbestos trade – Toronto Star Editorial Comment – June 25, 2011

The Toronto Star, which has the largest broadsheet circulation in Canada,  has an enormous impact on Canada’s federal and provincial politics as well as shaping public opinion.

For years the federal government has been warned by doctors, environmentalists, unions, even Health Canada, about the deadly impact of asbestos. But Ottawa remains intransigent about curbing exports of this harmful mineral. Once again this week it opposed listing chrysotile asbestos on the United Nations’ list of dangerous materials. Once again it acted irresponsibly.

At a summit in Switzerland to discuss the Rotterdam Convention — a UN treaty on the international trading of hazardous substances — Canadian officials quietly blocked the inclusion of asbestos on the list of dangerous materials, joining such countries as Vietnam, Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan.

The hypocrisy is staggering. The federal government has spent millions to clear its own buildings of this noxious material — including taking it out of 24 Sussex Drive to protect the Prime Minister and his family. Canadian companies, schools and homeowners have also removed asbestos from their structures. Yet we happily export it. Continue Reading →

When less asbestos is best – Globe and Mail Editorial (June 24, 2011)

The Globe and Mail is Canada’s national newspaper with the second largest broadsheet circulation in the country. It has enormous impact and influence on Canada’s political and business elite as well as the rest of the country’s print, radio and television media.

What does the federal government have against a five-page form? That’s what its opposition to “listing” chrysotile asbestos – a hazardous material – under the Rotterdam Convention amounts to. Canada was wrong to block an emerging consensus in favour of listing at a Convention meeting on Wednesday, especially given the small restrictions involved in the listing procedure.

Chrysotile, of which Canada is the world’s fifth-largest producer, is a material that can be used to make cement. Can be used – most developed economies have forsaken it for other materials, because chrysotile contains tiny fibres that, if exposed, can lead to respiratory ailments and even cancer. But it is a cheap enough alternative that growing Asian countries are a growing market for the product. An Asian medical journal recently reported that it expects a “surge of asbestos-related diseases in the immediate decades ahead” as a result.

Industry Minister Christian Paradis said in the Commons last week that “scientific publications show that chrysotile can be used safely under controlled conditions.” We’re not sure which publications he’s referring to, but presumably not the ones read by Health Canada’s director-general for the safe environments program, when he recommended listing of chrysotile under the Rotterdam Convention in 2006; nor statements by the World Health Organization or the Rotterdam Convention’s review committee. Continue Reading →

Asbestos’s last, lonely champion – by Susan Riley (Ottawa Citizen – June 24, 2011) Susan Riley writes on national politics. E-mail: [email protected].

I still remember the shock and dismay I felt walking through the ByWard Market in 2005, when I noticed newspaper headlines announcing that Chuck Strahl had been diagnosed with a deadly form of asbestos-related cancer.

Not only was Strahl fit and strong (fortunately, he still is), he was a well-liked Reform, then Conservative, MP and, subsequently, a successful cabinet minister in a number of posts. He decided not to run in the last election – his son Mark took over his B.C. seat on May 2 – and has returned to Chilliwack, his cancer apparently in remission.

This memory makes Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s adamant support for Quebec’s asbestos industry in recent weeks seem even more confounding and cold. After all, within his own cabinet he had sobering evidence of the cost of unprotected exposure to asbestos. Continue Reading →