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.

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