The worldwide medical community has agreed for nearly five decades that asbestos exposure could cause a number of serious illnesses including malignant mesothelioma and asbestosis. However, that has not stopped Canada from continuing to mine and export the naturally occurring substance.
Despite the efforts of the Conservative government and the shameful lobbying of industry groups, it appears that the bell has finally tolled for at least part of the Canadian asbestos industry.
LAB Chrysotile Inc. recently filed for bankruptcy, according to the Montreal Gazette. The news provider reports that the company is one of two potential asbestos firms that could survive.
The bankruptcy, combined with the halting of operations at Quebec’s Jeffrey Mine, means that there are currently no active asbestos mining operations in Canada.
Company buries head in sand, says it will seek to continue
LAB, and the Canadian asbestos industry as a whole, denies that chrysotile – or white – asbestos is a health risk if it is handled properly, despite the irrefutable evidence that exposure to the substance can cause deadly diseases.
The company’s CEO Simon Dupéré says that he hopes that operations at the asbestos mine will soon pick up under a new structure, and also alludes to the fact that his industry is the victim of a smear campaign.
“I’m convinced we can relaunch the mine. We’re going to push for a plan of action, talk to all the players,” he said to the Globe and Mail. “We’ve been fighting [the negative publicity]. I’m convinced that this product can – and is – used in a safe fashion.”
Asbestos shipped to developing countries
Much of the asbestos is sent to developing countries around the world, most notably India. There, industry advocates say, the material is needed due to its insulating properties and resistance to flame.
“It’s prized in many places as a low-cost infrastructure-building material,” says Dupéré.
However, it is unlikely that all people in these countries are fully aware of the dangers of asbestos. And even if they were aware it is impossible to protect one’s self completely from exposure to the substance
This exposure can cause malignant mesothelioma, asbestosis and lung cancer.
All told, the World Health Organization estimates that such asbestos-caused illnesses claim the lives of 107,000 people each year around the world.