Canada blasted over asbestos exports
June 15, 2011
Canada's opposition blasted the government for ignoring its own scientists' advice to stop the mining and exporting of asbestos, one week before a major UN conference on dangerous products.
New Democratic Party MPs also accused the Conservative government of blocking the UN listing of chrysotile asbestos as toxic so that it would be strictly regulated.
The MPs, backed by more than 200 scientists and health organizations from around the world who signed a letter urging the government to act, said internal government emails revealed Health Canada pressed Ottawa to recognize the product mined in Quebec as dangerous.
New Democratic Party MP Pat Martin said: "It's appalling, it's a disgrace, it's an international shame and it gives a big black eye to Canada's boy-scout image around the world if we're dumping this carcinogen into unsuspecting developing nations."
India, Indonesia and the Philippines, among others, are major importers of Canadian asbestos.
Industry Minister Christian Paradis countered that "Canada has promoted the safe and secure use of chrysotile asbestos for 30 years both nationwide and internationally."
He pointed to scientific reviews that found it can be used under controlled conditions.
The Rotterdam Convention's 73 signatories, including Canada, agreed to ban or severely restrict pesticides and industrial chemicals for health and environmental reasons.
The fifth meeting of the parties is to be held in Geneva on June 20-24.
According to the New Democrats, Canada exported 750,000 tonnes of asbestos in 2006, the last year figures were available.
The fibrous crystal mineral is primarily used as building insulation for its sound absorption and resistance to fire, heat and electrical damage but exposure to it can cause lung inflammation and cancer.
Back to Archive