May 2012 – Announcements
Canada’s Dangerous Export of Asbestos
Canada will continue to export chrysotile asbestos leaving it up to the receiving country to warn its users.
The Minister of Natural Resources Joe Oliver recently wrote to the First Aid Attendants Association that: “The risk posed by using chrysotile fibres can be managed if adequate controls, such as those established in Canada, are implemented and completely observed.”
The United Nations has a treaty known as the Rotterdam Convention that lists hazardous materials in Annex III. The Rotterdam Convention would not ban the export and import, but by including asbestos on the hazardous materials list it would require that Canada provide a warning to the recipients of the asbestos.
The Conservative government of Canada has refused to support the Rotterdam Convention to include chrysotile asbestos on the list of hazardous materials.
Health Minister Leona Aglukkaq has supported this approach allowing Canada to continue exporting chrysotile asbestos as if it is well regulated in other countries.
In Canada chrysotile is regulated under the Canada Consumer Product Safety Act. In British Columbia the use of asbestos in the workplace is strictly regulated by WorkSafeBC. In many countries it is not well regulated or not regulated at all; these are the countries that import asbestos.
Canadians are protected because asbestos and products that contain it must be disclosed to the consumers/workers but the government of Canada does not want to follow the Rotterdam Convention to warn people in other countries about the hazardous product we are sending them.
The Canadian Cancer Society reports that worldwide about 107,000 people die every year from disease related to occupational exposure to asbestos. Many deaths were due to historical exposures and as Joe Oliver wrote: “These uses have been prohibited or discontinued in Canada since the late 1970s.” These dangerous uses continue in other countries.
In November 2011 an NDP motion in the House of Commons to ban the export of asbestos and include it in the Rotterdam Convention failed.
June 2012 will be the one year anniversary of Canada’s third time blocking the inclusion of chrysotile asbestos on the hazardous materials list.
—– Occupational First Aid Attendants Association of BC