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Society calls on government to adopt nationwide ban on all asbestos products

27 March 2016

Ottawa -

The Canadian Cancer Society is calling on the federal government to adopt a nationwide ban on all asbestos products.

Asbestos exposure is Canada’s leading cause of workplace death, and only through strong national action can Canadians be protected. Accordingly, the Canadian Cancer Society is calling on the federal government to ban the manufacture, use, import and export of asbestos and asbestos-containing materials and products.

Canada must catch up 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 whom implemented bans decades ago. The World Health Organization has declared that ‘the most efficient way to eliminate asbestos-related diseases is to stop the use of all types of asbestos.’

In addition, we urge the government to partner with provinces and territories to implement a comprehensive asbestos reduction strategy that:

  • Sets a clear schedule for legislating and implementing a ban on all new asbestos products
  • Requires mandatory reporting of public buildings containing asbestos and establishes federal and provincial building registries
  • Establishes a national surveillance system to track health outcomes of people already exposed to asbestos and all asbestos-related disease in Canada
  • Engages and supports communities, business, and workers affected by an asbestos ban
  • Strengthens workplace safety legislation
  • Supports the addition of chrysotile asbestos to Annex III of the Rotterdam Convention
  • Actively increases awareness and education of harms of asbestos exposure

Despite the closing of Canada’s last asbestos mine in 2012, over 150,000 Canadian workers are still exposed to asbestos today. 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.

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.

By banning new products and future use we can ensure that exposure will decrease with time. However it will not eliminate all exposure. Asbestos is unfortunately already built into many homes, offices, and public buildings as a result of past use. Its complete removal will take many years, emphasizing the need for building registries and other policies to keep Canadians, including those who are exposed to asbestos at work, safe.

With Canada facing a projected 40% increase in new cancer cases over the next 15 years, cancer prevention must be a national priority. The federal government has a responsibility to protect the health and safety of all Canadians, and, as much as possible, to reduce our exposure to harmful substances. It’s time for the government to fulfill that responsibility and demonstrate the leadership to protect Canadians from asbestos.

For information, please contact:

Gabriel Miller

Director, Public Issues, National office

Tel: 613-852-5404

The Canadian Cancer Society is a national community-based organization of volunteers whose mission is the eradication of cancer and the enhancement of the quality of life of people living with cancer. When you want to know more about cancer, visit our website www.cancer.ca or call our toll-free, bilingual Cancer Information Service at 1 888 939-3333.