For years, Canada has been one of the largest exporters of asbestos
. Developing nations are especially willing to buy the inexpensive fibres, which they use to add a fireproofing element to many common building products. (These nations consume about 90 percent of Quebec’s asbestos.)
However, Quebec does use plenty of its own chrysotile. A recent survey found asbestos in at least 180 health care sites, including long-term care homes. Abatement is now underway.
Until recently, however, governing bodies insisted that chrysotile asbestos was safe to handle. Lobbyists – often funded by The Chrysotile Institute – argued that the fibres didn’t share the cancer-causing properties of other forms of asbestos, like serpentine. These lobbyists even managed to keep asbestos off the U.N.’s list of toxic substances.
In the past, the Parti Québécois promoted its use, saying, “Unequivocally, they believe the future of asbestos and asbestos products
can play a leading role in many specific sectors.” They suggested that encapsulated asbestos products (such as bricks) were not harmful at all, because the individual fibres weren’t likely to make it to the surface, where they could be inhaled. However, this promotion failed to consider the repercussions that could occur as those products aged naturally or were damaged by construction.
Now, however, the parties in power are starting to consider such factors.
“I don’t think we’re there anymore,” Natural Resources Minister Martine Ouellet said, when asked about their policies of asbestos promotion.
As a first step, the Pauline Marlois-led government rescinded the previous government’s offer of a $50 million incentive to re-launch production at Quebec’s Jeffrey Asbestos Mine. And while they’ve stopped endorsing production, there’s still plenty of room to improve. Perhaps a complete ban of asbestos
will be next.
Faith Franz writes for The Mesothelioma Center at Asbestos.com. She encourages patients to consider the benefits of alternative medicine.