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.
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 calls for the federal government to adopt a national ban on asbestos products. 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 implement a comprehensive asbestos reduction strategy that:
Sets a clear schedule for legislation 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 community, business and workers affected by an asbestos ban, which includes providing financial stability
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, and provides information to support those afflicted with asbestos-related disease
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.’
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.
All forms of asbestos cause cancer. One step in ensuring Canadians are not exposed to this harmful substance is to create a free and easily accessible public registry 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.
Most Canadians are sending a clear message to the federal government:
82% say a public registry of buildings containing asbestos is important.
78% say it’s the responsibility of the federal government to create a public registry.
Watch this video to learn what to do if you find asbestos – and join the Canadian Cancer Society in the fight for a public registry of buildings that contain asbestos.
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.