Canada urged to ban asbestos mining, exports

Wed Jun 30, 2010 5:35pm EDT
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By Julie Gordon

TORONTO (Reuters) - A group of medical associations on Wednesday called for a ban on asbestos mining in Canada, which tightly restricts the use of the material but allows it to be exported despite its health risks.

The Canadian Medical Association, the Canadian Public Health Association and the National Specialty Society for Community Medicine demanded that provincial and federal governments stop funding the asbestos industry and promoting Canadian asbestos abroad.

Canada is the world's fifth largest exporter of chrysotile asbestos. Two mines in the province of Quebec account for all of the production.

Once a commonly used building material, asbestos is strictly regulated in Canada under the Hazardous Products Act and the Environmental Protection Act.

Asbestos exposure has been linked with lung and other cancers. An estimated 90,000 people die from asbestos-related illnesses every year, according the World Health Organization.

Canada produced 180,000 tonnes of asbestos in 2009, 96 percent of which was exported to 80 countries around the world, with Asia being the primary market, according to the U.S. Geological Survey.

The Canadian government, in a legal document on the website of the auditor general, said it "encouraged" countries that import Canadian asbestos to follow the 1986 Geneva conventions on asbestos use and regulation.

Provincial and federal natural resource ministers did not return telephone calls requesting comment on the proposed ban.   Continued...