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Help Stop The Mining And Exporting Of Asbestos

2011/08/12

Canada has a problem.  We have natural resources that other countries want.  Why is that a problem, you ask.  Well, in the case of the Alberta Tar Sands, the problem is the gigantic environmental impact of extracting oil from bitumen.  In the case of asbestos, it’s a carcinogen that, according to the World Health Organization, is responsible for over 100,000 deaths a year.

The use of asbestos is banned in 50 countries around the world.  However, it is an inexpensive form of insulation that is resistant to heat, electrical and chemical damage.  That is why poor countries still purchase it.

Caricature Canada's asbestos industry

Caricature Canada's asbestos industry

Unfortunately, the cartoon above is not much of an exaggeration.  In Canada, we consider asbestos so dangerous that many safety precautions (such as a sealed off work areas, use of protective clothing and single use respirators) have to be taken if it is to be, for example, removed from an old building.  Unfortunately, in the countries that buy our asbestos, workers usually do not have access to any protective equipment whatsoever.  Hence the 100,000 deaths a year.

All of this is the reason why the Sierra Club of Canada has begun a campaign to convince our environment minister, Hon. Peter Kent, that the sale of asbestos is “wrong, unethical and immoral”.  If you would like to send a message to the minister, his e-mail address is (peter.kent@parl.gc.ca), his twitter feed is here, and his Facebook wall is here (all courtesy of the Sierra Club).

Here are some facts to help you frame your message (again, from the Sierra Club):

  • According to the World Health Organization, more than 107,000 people die each year from asbestos-related disease.
  • Asbestos is the “perfect carcinogen” as it acts as both a promoter and initiator of cancer.
  • Exposure to asbestos has been linked to several diseases including asbestosis, lung cancer and mesothelioma.
  • At the recent conference of the UN Rotterdam Convention in Geneva, the Harper government single-handedly prevented asbestos from being put on the Convention’s list of hazardous substances.
  • Newly released documents show that back in 2006 the Canadian government rejected advice from Health Canada that asbestos be added to the UN list of hazardous substances.
  • Billions of dollars will be spent over the next 20 years to remove asbestos from our Parliament Buildings because it’s a cancer-causing substance.
  • Canada mines and ships the majority of its asbestos to the Third World, particularly Asia. The world’s leading experts predict that the sharp increase in asbestos use in Asia will see a surge of mortality and morbidity in the decades ahead.
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