Wednesday, October 18, 2006

An Unwanted Journey: Day 0330 - Shame on Canada

CBC has reported recently on Canada's leading role in opposing a proposal to restrict international sales of asbestos, a known carcinogen and almost always the direct cause of mesothelioma.

Canadians, and especially the Canadian federal government and the Quebec provincial government, should hang their heads in shame.

It's not as if the link between cancer and asbestos is news. We've known unequivocally of the carcinogenic properties of crocidolite asbestos (so-called "blue asbestos") since at least 1960.

What may be news to readers (it certainly was news to me) is that Canada is the only western nation that exports asbestos, something which associates our nation with Russia, China, and Kazakhstan. This past week, at a convention in Geneva for parties to the Rotterdam Convention, a treaty for restricting trade in toxic substances, Canada led opposition to adding chrysotile asbestos to the list of toxic substances. Even though asbestos and asbestos products are banned in Canada and the Canadian Environmental Protection Act of 1999 lists asbestos as a toxic substance, we still export more than 90% of the asbestos mined in Quebec to places like India and the Philippines, places where adequate laws and regulations limiting the use of asbestos either don't exist or aren't enforced. This is shameful behavior!

The World Trade Organization has already ruled against a challenge put forward by Canada against a ban on all asbestos products in France. The WTO ruled that "no minimum threshold of level of exposure or duration of exposure has been identified with regard to the risk of pathologies associated with chrysotile." But despite this, Canadian tax dollars - to the tune of $20 million - are used to support the industry lobby group called the Chrysotile Institute.

As someone just recently discharged from a regional cancer centre and having received treatment worth in the hundreds of thousands of dollars, I am ashamed of our country's hypocrisy in the promotion and sale of a know carcinogen to developing countries.


The Canadian federal government and Quebec provincial government position is supposedly based on claims from the Chrysotile Institute that the chrysotile form of asbestos must be distinguished from amphibole asbestos, the latter supposedly being the only demonstrated culprit in mesothelioma. But other studies dispute that claim. See, for example, a major 25-year longitudinal study conducted in China linking chrysotile asbestos exposure with mesothelioma: "As the results indicate, we found no evidence in support of the amphibole contaminant hypothesis. To the contrary, a strong potential for chrysotile asbestos alone to cause lung cancer and mesothelioma was suggested."

See aslo Chrysotile Peritoneal Mesothelioma.

For more information about chrysotile asbestos, see Mesothelioma Information.

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