Canadian government blocks asbestos from hazard list at Rotterdam Convention again

At the Rotterdam Convention in Geneva last week, Canada “won” the great asbestos debate. The Harper government successfully blocked asbestos from appearing on the international list of hazardous chemicals, meaning the country can continue exporting the carcinogenic fibres to developing nations.

The conference hit a stalemate. Even though Canada believes in asbestos removal, it still wants to export it, and the Rotterdam Convention requires a consensus on a given hazardous material before placing it on “the list.”

Canada was one of just a few countries – and the only western country – objecting to asbestos’ inclusion. While the government had reserved passing official judgement on asbestos for months, even after being attacked by The Daily Show, the decision to speak out in favor of asbestos at the conference drew a line in the sand.

“Harper has been outed from the asbestos closet,” said Kathleen Ruff, a senior human rights adviser to the Rideau Institute.

For at least two more years, Canada will export asbestos to unsuspecting countries with no mandatory warnings about the health hazards associated with it, which include lung cancer and permanent lung scarring.

It’s an embarrassment in the eyes of many (most?) Canadians. Detect the fibre on our soil and the government supports a full asbestos remediation. Threaten to cut off the revenue stream provided by exporting it and asbestos is suddenly “fine” if handled properly.

Well, at least we finally know where our federal government stands, even it that stance is shameful.

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Harper government still mum about position on asbestos

You’d think that the scathing Daily Show critique, warnings from UN-affiliated organizations and the countless other news stories about Canada’s exportation of asbestos would be enough to sway the Harper government into changing its policies. But you’d be wrong.

Even with a major international conference in Geneva on the horizon, Canada has not indicated whether or not its stance on asbestos will change.

For now, even though asbestos removal has become a must in our own buildings across the nation, the Harper government maintains that it can be used or, more specifically, exported “under controlled conditions.” It’s an alarming claim considering that disturbing or manipulating the fire-retardant asbestos in any way can stir up tiny fibres that enter the lungs and cause cancer, permanent scarring and countless other problems.

Particularly shocking: comments recently made by Stephen Paradis, Canada’s Minister of Industry. He spoke favourably about Canada’s recent decision to “block” the inclusion of asbestos or chrysotile from the Rotterdam Convention, which is aimed at promoting “shared responsibility and co-operative efforts among parties in the international trade of certain hazardous chemicals.”

Yep. Even though 24 Sussex Drive itself literally has undergone asbestos inspection and removal, the government wants to ensure it can send the stuff elsewhere.

The Rotterdam Convention wants to ensure that countries give “prior informed consent” before importing hazardous chemicals and make informed decisions on whether to handle the chemicals at all.

Recent comments by Dimitri Soudas, Harper’s communications director, also suggest that Canada won’t change its stance on asbestos next week.

“All scientific reviews clearly confirm that chrysotile (asbestos) fibres can be used safely under controlled conditions,” Soudas said.

However, a coalition of more than 200 doctors and major health organizations such as the Canadian Cancer Society, the Canadian Public Health Association and the Canadian Medical Association beg to differ. They claim that asbestos is listed as a hazardous substance under Canadian law and that allowing developing countries to handle it is applying a “double standard of inferior protection.”

The asbestos debate continues to snowball and may come to a head at the Rotterdam Convention.

Featured in Mike Holmes’ magazine, HGTV’s Income Properties, W Network’s Love It Or List It and chosen by Homestars.com as “Best Toronto Asbestos Removal Company” based on customer ratings and reviews, GreenStream Environmental Services are fully-certified, trusted and insured professionals in the removal and disposal of commercial, industrial, institutional and residential asbestos, vermiculite, mould (hazardous and non-hazardous). Providing emergency service 24/7/365 for all of Toronto and the GTA, GreenStream has over 40 combined years of experience serving clients such as the City of Toronto, the Toronto District School Board and many more. For a free estimate in Toronto, the GTA and Southern Ontario, call today at 416-818-9414.

UN-sanctioned group tells Canada to brush up on asbestos science

Canada isn’t known to be behind the eight ball on many things, including civil rights and technology, but asbestos is quickly becoming a national black mark.

The country’s failure to stop exporting asbestos has drawn the ire of the International Labour Organization, a group affiliated with the United Nations. The Geneva-based operation pointed a finger at Canada in a new draft report. It noted that the Canadian government recognizes “the dangers of exposure to asbestos in the workplace” and that Canada is a signatory to the 1986 Asbestos Convention.

The report also says that Canada’s participation in that convention obligates the country to “keep abreast of technical progress and scientific knowledge” on asbestos. It adds that Canada should take into account the World Health Organization’s findings plus those of other international organizations concerning the dangers of asbestos exposure.

Do we take the hint, here? The fibres from asbestos cause lung cancer, mesothelioma (cancer of the abdominal lining and chest) and asbestosis, or potentially fatal scarring in the lungs. We hire asbestos removal companies to eliminate it from our schools and we participated in a convention illustrating the threat. Almost every other nation in the world has banned its use and exportation.

Yet here Canada is, still OK with sending it off to countries like India. It’s one thing for sick building syndrome to still be rampant in our country, as asbestos inspection and removal takes money. The process is an ongoing one and it’s forgivable that it will take time.

It’s another to knowingly send the harmful substance for use and fresh installation in other countries. That major, UN-affiliated organizations are taking notice of such a prehistoric practice is embarrassing.

For now, the best we can do is stay on top of asbestos by eliminating it from our homes, schools and workplaces. In the long run, let’s hope that all the international attention will finally sway the Harper government into action.

Featured in Mike Holmes’ magazine, HGTV’s Income Properties, W Network’s Love It Or List It and chosen by Homestars.com as “Best Toronto Asbestos Removal Company” based on customer ratings and reviews, GreenStream Environmental Services are fully-certified, trusted and insured professionals in the removal and disposal of commercial, industrial, institutional and residential asbestos, vermiculite, mould (hazardous and non-hazardous). Providing emergency service 24/7/365 for all of Toronto and the GTA, GreenStream has over 40 combined years of experience serving clients such as the City of Toronto, the Toronto District School Board and many more. For a free estimate in Toronto, the GTA and Southern Ontario, call today at 416-818-9414.

Harper government to reopen the asbestos debate?

Shortly before the federal election, the Harper government championed Canada’s exportation of asbestos, or, as Prime Minister Stephen Harper calls it “crysotile.” Little did our leaders know that the topic would explode into an international debate over the next month.

As discussed on this environmental blog, The Daily Show recently spoofed Canada’s exportation of carcinogenic asbestos to countries like India. Perhaps in light of the negative international publicity generated by the segment, the Harper government may be reopening the discussion.

Langley, British Columbia MP Mark Warawa said Friday that he personally wants to get the debate started again.

“I think we need to take a serious look at the export of asbestos,” he said. “It’s directly linked to cancer.”

The silly part, as Warawa pointed out, is that the Parliament buildings in Ottawa are currently undergoing asbestos removal. Citizens all over the country, from Nunavut to the Greater Toronto Area GTA), are well aware that asbestos fibres cause lung cancer. The material is considered too dangerous for our own politicians’ places of work. Yet we allow its export to other countries? It just doesn’t add up.

Warawa hasn’t specified if he favours an outright ban on asbestos exportation or some other, less drastic measure, simply saying that “I think we need to look at all options.”

The fact that so many “sick” buildings, schools and so on across Canada are seeking out asbestos inspection and removal companies should send a major message to the Harper government. Asbestos is too toxic to have in our homes, our workplaces or near our children. So why are we pawning it off on other nations?

Featured in Mike Holmes’ magazine, HGTV’s Income Properties, W Network’s Love It Or List It and chosen by Homestars.com as “Best Toronto Asbestos Removal Company” based on customer ratings and reviews, GreenStream Environmental Services are fully-certified, trusted and insured professionals in the removal and disposal of commercial, industrial, institutional and residential asbestos, vermiculite, mould (hazardous and non-hazardous). Providing emergency service 24/7/365 for all of Toronto and the GTA, GreenStream has over 40 combined years of experience serving clients such as the City of Toronto, the Toronto District School Board and many more. For a free estimate in Toronto, the GTA and Southern Ontario, call today at 416-818-9414.

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