The international community has long been aware of Canada’s double-standard policies regarding the exportation of asbestos to developing countries. With the recent passing of famous Australian mountain climber Lincoln Hall as a result of malignant mesothelioma, Independent Australia put the focus back on the Canadian government’s refusal to adjust its asbestos stance.
David Donovan, managing editor for Independent Australia, notes that while the carcinogenic material was completely banned in Australia in 1991, Canada still engages in the asbestos trade, with the exports sent to developing countries around the world.
This, despite the fact that the dangers of asbestos exposure are hardly a secret. Since the time of the ancient Greeks and Romans it has been observed that people working with asbestos were more susceptible to illnesses. Since the 1960s, it has been clear that the inhalation of the dangerous mineral fibers can lead to the development of lung cancer, asbestosis and malignant mesothelioma, diseases that kill approximately 107,000 individuals around the world each year, according to the World Health Organization.
Canada’s exploitation through exportation
A simple examination of the numbers sheds light on Canada’s double standard when it comes to the asbestos trade. Though use of the material, for all intents and purposes, is banned in the country, statistics indicate Canada exported more than 463,000 tons of the material between 2008 and 2010, the vast majority of it being sent to developing countries, according to Donovan.
In India specifically, where 48.5 percent of the asbestos is exported, asbestos cement roofing has been supported by the government as an alternative to safer options including tiles, steel or thatch.
This movement is only furthered by the actions of many Canadian officials who are backed by leaders of the asbestos industry. There is currently a push being made to reopen the Jeffrey Mine in the aptly named town of Asbestos, Quebec, which could triple the country’s production of the carcinogen.
Asbestos contradictions abound
Laurie Kazan-Allen, the Coordinator of International Ban Asbestos Secretariat (IBAS), notes the simple fact that Canada has spent millions of dollars to rid public buildings of the dangerous material while still promoting its use to the developing world highlights its contradictory stance.
“For decades, Canada has led the worldwide pro-asbestos lobby and orchestrated a marketing campaign based on industry propaganda and data provided by hired gun “scientists,” Kazan-Allen wrote in a statement provided to Independent Australia. “Even as Canadian authorities assure workers, governments and consumers that asbestos can be used safely in India, Thailand, Indonesia and elsewhere, a de facto ban on asbestos use exists in Canada.”