Unions and campaigners have welcomed progress on Canada’s promised asbestos ban. The Canadian federal government had now published a draft law prohibiting the use, sale, import and export of asbestos and products containing the hazardous material.
The federal health and environment departments are both sponsoring the proposed changes aimed at eliminating the market for asbestos products in the country. After decades supporting resistance to asbestos bans, the Canadian government now acknowledges that all forms of asbestos fibres, if inhaled, can cause cancer and other diseases.
According to the proposed regulations, the government estimates asbestos was responsible for approximately 1,900 lung cancer cases and 430 mesothelioma cases in Canada in 2011. A single case of lung cancer or mesothelioma costs Canada’s health system more than $1 million, the government says.
“By launching these new, tougher rules to stop the manufacture, import, use and sale of asbestos, we are following through on our promises to protect all Canadians from exposure to this toxic substance,” said environment and climate change minister Catherine McKenna.
The newly proposed regulations include some exemptions, including an allowance for the cleanup of millions of tonnes of asbestos residue around former mines to make way for redevelopment of the sites.
“What we’ve seen so far, we’re quite pleased,” said Hassan Yussuff, president of the Canadian Labour Congress.
Fe de Leon, a researcher at the Canadian Environmental Law Association (CELA), said: “This regulation provides some certainty that asbestos exposure to Canadians and workers will reduce over time starting in 2019. However, the government should take this opportunity to build on its strategy to address potential exposure from legacy asbestos.”
Laura Lozanski, occupational health and safety officer with the university union CAUT, noted: “Canada has the momentum to be amongst the global leaders to address exposure from legacy asbestos.”
She added: “It would require the collective efforts by key government departments to address very difficult issues including tracking and recording non-federal buildings containing asbestos and those people who have been exposed to asbestos.”