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Asbestos

Asbestos exposure is Canada’s leading cause of workplace death, and only through strong national action can Canadians be protected.

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.

With the announcement in December 2016, Canada will finally join more than 50 countries worldwide that have already banned the use of all forms of asbestos, including Australia, France, Germany and the United Kingdom. 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.’

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.

More on asbestos

  • Our position

    All forms of asbestos cause cancer. The Canadian Cancer Society believes that all efforts should be made to eliminate exposure to asbestos and to eliminate asbestos-related diseases.

    The Canadian Cancer Society supports the federal government's plan for a nationwide ban on all asbestos products by 2018. This includes the manufacture, use, import and export of asbestos and asbestos-containing materials and products.

    In addition, the Society urges the government to partner with provinces and territories to:

    • Require mandatory reporting of public buildings containing asbestos and establish federal and provincial building registries
    • Establish a national surveillance system to track health outcomes of people already exposed to asbestos and all asbestos-related disease in Canada
    • Engage and support community, business and workers affected by an asbestos ban, which includes providing financial stability
    • Target 0% asbestos concentration in all consumer products in Canada
  • A public registry for buildings containing asbestos

    All forms of asbestos cause cancer. One step in ensuring Canadians are not exposed to this harmful substance is to create free and easily accessible public registries of all buildings in Canada that contain asbestos.

    Not knowing which buildings contain asbestos means that workers can be exposed to the substance during demolition or renovations, and homeowners can’t take steps to protect themselves.

    Once it’s known that a building contains asbestos, appropriate action can be taken to protect people from this substance.

    Watch this video to learn what to do if you find asbestos – and join the Canadian Cancer Society in the fight for public registries of buildings that contain asbestos.

  • In the news

    March 2016 - Society calls on government to adopt nationwide ban on all asbestos products

    April 2016 - Society marks National Day of Mourning with renewed call for total asbestos ban

    May 2016 - Society statement on federal government’s support for asbestos action

    December 2016 - Nationwide asbestos ban good news for Canadians 

  • Saskatchewan becomes first province with a mandatory asbestos registry

    In 2013, the Saskatchewan government adopted The Public Health Amendment Act, also known as Howard’s Law. The law, the first in Canada, requires a public registry of buildings known to contain asbestos. Crown corporations, schools, health facilities and provincial government organizations must now report any asbestos content in their facilities to the Saskatchewan Asbestos Registry.

    Howard’s Law is the legacy of the late Howard Willems. Howard was an asbestos awareness activist who was unknowingly exposed to asbestos when he worked for the Canadian Food Inspection Agency. In 2010, he was diagnosed with mesethelioma, a type of lung cancer linked to asbestos. He died just months before Howard’s Law was passed.

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