Nationwide asbestos ban good news for Canadians

15 December 2016

Toronto -

The Canadian Cancer Society supports the federal government’s decision to ban the manufacture, use, import and export of asbestos in Canada by 2018. Asbestos is the leading cause of workplace death in Canada, and the Society has been calling on the federal government for many years to adopt a nationwide ban on all asbestos products.

"All forms of asbestos cause cancer," says Gabriel Miller, vice-president of health policy, public issues and cancer information at the Canadian Cancer Society. "There's no known safe level of exposure. We are very pleased that the government recognizes the enormous health hazards posed by asbestos. This ban will save many lives in the future.”

Asbestos is the leading cause of mesothelioma, and it also causes lung, laryngeal and ovarian cancers.

Although the overall use of asbestos has decreased in recent decades, Canada has continued to use asbestos and asbestos products in brake pads and panels, tiles and pipes used in construction.

The ban, once implemented, brings Canada in line with the more than 50 countries worldwide that have banned the use of all forms of asbestos, including Australia, France, Germany and the United Kingdom, most of which implemented bans decades ago.

The Society is looking to the federal government to work with provincial and territorial governments to support businesses and employees who will be affected by the ban.

Despite the closing of Canada’s last asbestos mine in 2012, over 150,000 Canadian workers are still exposed to asbestos. Workers compensation claims for occupational cancer have surpassed those of traumatic injuries and diseases, with the majority of occupational cancers being attributable to asbestos exposure.

"The use of asbestos in Canada has left a terrible legacy. The banning of asbestos will start to prevent cancers in the future," says Dr Paul Demers, director of the Occupational Cancer Research Centre Steering Committee.

Worldwide an estimated 107,000 people died from asbestos-related diseases each year. The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) classified all forms of asbestos as carcinogenic to humans in 1987 and reaffirmed this classification in 2009. It is the leading cause of mesothelioma and also causes lung, laryngeal and ovarian cancers. Studies show that asbestos may also increase the risk of pharyngeal, stomach and colorectal cancers. In addition to cancer, exposure to asbestos causes asbestosis, a severe and debilitating condition due to lung-tissue scarring.

Jesse’s story

Jesse Todd lost his stepfather, Howard Willems, in 2012 to mesothelioma, a cancer caused by asbestos exposure on the job. Howard worked as a food inspector starting in the 1980s. After being diagnosed in 2010, Howard gave up his role and started the Saskatchewan Asbestos Disease Awareness Organization. When Howard died, Jesse took over his role as director and has continued working to stop asbestos from harming any more Canadians.

“My stepfather’s story has helped raise awareness of how harmful asbestos exposure is. Canada needs to protect its future generations and today’s announcement is a promising start.”

Read more about asbestos.

About the Canadian Cancer Society

The Canadian Cancer Society is a national, community-based organization of volunteers whose mission is to eradicate cancer and enhance the quality of life of people living with cancer. Thanks to our donors and volunteers, the Society has the most impact, against the most cancers, in the most communities in Canada. For more information, visit cancer.ca or call our toll-free bilingual Cancer Information Service at 1-888-939-3333 (TTY 1-866-786-3934).

For more information, please contact:

Rosie Hales

Communications Specialist

Canadian Cancer Society

National office

Phone: 416 934-5338