Canada says asbestos is hazardous – now that mines are closing

Canada dropped its longtime opposition…to the international listing of asbestos as a hazardous material, a designation intended to curb the use abroad of the fire-resistant substance, which can cause cancer and other illnesses.

Canada had been the main opponent of such a listing, which would require exporters to warn importing countries of the hazards of asbestos, and would allow countries to ban its import. The listing would not of itself ban its sale.

Industry Minister Christian Paradis said he made the decision as a logical consequence of plans by Quebec’s provincial premier-designate, Pauline Marois, effectively to end the production of the substance. Quebec is the only place in Canada where it’s produced…

Just offhand – have you ever read a better example of hypocrisy about science and health in politics? For decades in Canada it didn’t matter whether you were conservative or liberal, your favorite political hacks took identical positions on the “safety” of asbestos. Because the owners of the mines were profiting and a significant number of workers were employed.

Canada has been the only Western developed country to export asbestos, which is estimated to kill more than 100,000 people around the world every year. It had continued to export it even though it strictly regulated its use domestically.

From 1900 through 2003, it accounted for one-third of all worldwide production of all types of asbestos, according to the U.S. Geological Survey. Only Kazakhstan and Russia collectively produced more…

The outgoing Liberal government in Quebec had announced a C$58 million loan to restart the Jeffrey Mine, which would have been the only active asbestos mine in the province, but the incoming Parti Quebecois, elected on September 4, has pledged to cancel that loan, with the resulting end of asbestos output in Canada.


Asbestos is no more and no less lethal today than 10 years ago or 50. Whatever the rationale piled atop the policies unchanged for all that time – the core value is lying about death – for profit.

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