Canada to stop opposing listing asbestos as hazardous

Fri Sep 14, 2012 5:08pm EDT
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By Randall Palmer

OTTAWA (Reuters) - Canada dropped its longtime opposition on Friday to the international listing of asbestos as a hazardous material, a designation intended to curb the use abroad of the fire-resistant substance, which can cause cancer and other illnesses.

Canada had been the main opponent of such a listing, which would require exporters to warn importing countries of the hazards of asbestos, and would allow countries to ban its import. The listing would not of itself ban its sale.

Industry Minister Christian Paradis said he made the decision as a logical consequence of plans by Quebec's provincial premier-designate, Pauline Marois, effectively to end the production of the substance. Quebec is the only place in Canada where it's produced.

Canada had long worked against the listing under the United Nations' Rotterdam Convention, fearful that it would put Quebec asbestos mining out of business.

"It would be illogical for Canada to oppose the inclusion of chrysotile (asbestos) in...the Rotterdam Convention when Quebec, the only province that produces chrysotile, will prohibit its exploitation," Paradis said.

He made the announcement in Thetford Mines, his birthplace in the heart of his electoral district, and once a huge player in asbestos production.

Canada has been the only Western developed country to export asbestos, which is estimated to kill more than 100,000 people around the world every year. It had continued to export it even though it strictly regulated its use domestically.

From 1900 through 2003, it accounted for one-third of all worldwide production of all types of asbestos, according to the U.S. Geological Survey. Only Kazakhstan and Russia collectively produced more.   Continued...

A sign stating masks mandatory is seen posted on a door of an abandoned asbestos mine in Quebec, February 12, 2012. REUTERS/Christinne Muschi (