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.

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 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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The Daily Show slams Quebec town of Asbestos

Just a couple of weeks after Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper found himself in hot water because of the Conservative’s Party’s support of asbestos exports, the issue has been exposed on major American television.

The comedy news program The Daily Show, featuring Jon Stewart, ambushed asbestos mining officials in the Quebec town of Asbestos. Despite the fact that asbestos removal sampling has clearly revealed that the fibres are carcinogenic and responsible for 100,000 deaths a year, Quebec continues to export it to countries like India. Even though the government doesn’t let Quebec – and mining towns like Asbestos – distribute asbestos within Canada, Harper still supports the exports. The Daily Show had heard enough and went on the attack during an episode last week.

Daily Show Reporter Aasif Mandvi was born in India, which receives many of Quebec’s asbestos exports; he interviewed asbestos executive Bernard Coulombe. He started with a tongue-and-cheek tone, asking, “Does Asbestos mean something different in French than it does in English? Because in English it means slow, hacking, death.”

But Mandvi didn’t let Coulombe off for long. After the segment explained to viewers that there’s little evidence to suggest asbestos is handled safely in India, Mandvi asked Coulombe, “Have you ever been to India? Do you think in India people are following the regulations?”

Coulombe gave an answer that would infuriate any asbestos removal company: “Maybe [Indian workers] are used to the pollution. It’s like antibiotics. They have natural antibodies.”

Mandvi snapped at that point, and deservedly so, responding: “That’s really [expletive] up, man. I mean, selling them things that are going to kill them. I mean, that’s my family over there.”

Kudos to The Daily Show for using humor – and its audience of a million-plus viewers per night – to get the message out about the dangers of asbestos. From another country’s perspective, it’s absurd to see that parts of Canada aren’t committing to asbestos remediation and removal.

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 416-818-9314.

Tornadoes bring out the worst in asbestos

The damage inflicted by a natural disaster like a tornado is, for the most part, easy to see: buildings, trees and vehicles are ripped apart and pose very obvious threats to us.

However, there’s another serious environmental threat that accompanies tornadoes: asbestos exposure. Kudos to government agencies in the currently tornado-torn Southern states such as Alabama for recognizing the dangers and recently speaking out about them.

Older buildings that haven’t undergone proper asbestos removal are always health hazards; they can affect our breathing and exposure to asbestos fibres that can lead to serious long-term illnesses, including lung cancer.

But natural disasters such as tornados make the threat infinitely scarier. If you dilly-dally about getting an asbestos inspection and removal company to your building before tornado strikes, the consequences can be grave.

As Craig Tucker of the Jefferson County Department of Public Health recently explained, the destruction caused by tornadoes kicks debris all over the place and often crushes various components of a building’s foundation.

“When the material becomes crushed, more of a powdered state, that’s when you’ve got the potential for the asbestos fibres to become airborne and then cause the greatest damage to the public’s health,” Tucker said.

Health officials in the South have also smartly insisted that traditional dust masks aren’t enough to keep any disaster relief crews safe. Half-face masks with double HEPA filters are recommended.

While Ontario and the Greater Toronto Area aren’t part of Tornado Alley by any means, the disaster in the American South is an important lesson about the threat when a force of nature combines with asbestos, mould and other dangerous agents. It could be a tornado but it could also be an earthquake or a major storm.

The lesson is to make sure you keep up with your asbestos and mould removal so your risks are minimized in the event of a disaster.

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 and 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 416-818-9314.

Price of London Police HQ renovation climbs due to asbestos concerns

When it comes to renovating an old building, failing to pay proper attention to asbestos inspection can have long-term consequences. London, Ontario’s police headquarters learned that lesson the hard way recently when it was announced that an additional $1 million will be needed to complete a renovation project that has already cost $34 million.

The project was completed four years ago but, as Deputy Chief Ian Peer explained, “the original estimates to do what we wanted to do were substantially greater than the amount of money we were actually given. We were not able to get the funds back then to do all the things we needed to do, so here we are some years down the road.”

One of the neglected tasks was asbestos removal. To save money, companies often perform asbestos removal on a piece-by-piece basis. Someone finds the hazardous material and it’s removed by the appropriate asbestos inspection and removal company. This is what happened with the London Police headquarters. The problem is that the expenses increase every time a new pieces of dangerous asbestos is discovered. Low and behold, the police are being dinged for an unexpected $1 million four years after the renovations were completed.

As Peer said, “it just begins to get to the point where it becomes more economically feasible to do the entire abatement. “

The London Police Department’s story highlights a valuable lesson: there is no “halfway” with asbestos. Just because it isn’t right in front of your eyes doesn’t mean it isn’t there. Businesses and homeowners don’t want to take a “cross that bridge when when we come to it” attitude with a material with fibres that can cause lung cancer and other life-threatening illnesses when released.

The best solution is to start any renovation project the right way: by doing a complete asbestos and mould removal or inspection. Not only will you make the building a safer place to be, you’ll save money by avoiding unexpected future renovations as a result of neglecting environmental threats in the first place.

Stephen Harper defends asbestos exports despite cancer risks

Interestingly enough, as Election Day approaches in Canada, asbestos is at the center of a debate surrounding Prime Minister Stephen Harper.

Asbestos removal has become a vital process for curing “sick” public buildings in Canada. The fibres in the fire-resistant material have been directly linked to cancer – even afflicting Transport Minister Chuck Strahl, who has lung cancer as the result of exposure.

On Tuesday in Quebec, Harper said that he has “no plans” to expand the use of asbestos in Canada. However, he supports the sale of asbestos abroad. Harper claimed that “Chrysotile [or white asbestos, the most commonly encountered form of it] is permitted internationally under conditions of safe and controlled use.

Harper said that Canada is one of many countries continuing to export asbestos to the countries in which it is legal. The claim comes despite the fact that asbestos is being removed from Canadian schools, the House of Commons and 24 Sussex Dr., the Prime Minister’s home.

It’s arguably a risky stance for Harper to take so close to election time. The Ontario government regulates commercial asbestos and mould removal and environmental safety companies carry out the process for the Toronto and the GTA. The direct result of failure to remove asbestos is right under Harper’s nose with Strahl suffering.

“Typically, 20 to 25 years later, the asbestos works its ugly magic,” Strahl said this week. Unfortunately, I’m right on time.”

Canada’s health professionals are speaking out against the Harper government’s stance on asbestos. Dr. Kapil Khatter of the Canadian Association of Physicians for the Environment called for Harper to “put people’s lives ahead of politics” and called the export of asbestos “medically and morally indefensible.”

About Greenstream Environmental Inc.

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.