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.”

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