A prior post here noted that Canadian scientists recently criticized the Canadian government for continuing to support global sales of chrysotile asbestos fibers. The industry historically was very valuable for Canada in terms of jobs, taxes and revenues – the mining itself is graphically shown in a wonderful McCord Museum set of online photos of miners and the mines that show abysmal safety practices.
According to a front page Globe and Mail article on October 31, 2008, Canada took a formal position of silence this past week at proceedings under the Rotterdam convention to decide whether chrysotile asbestos fibers should be added to a list of the world’s most dangerous substances and thereby banned to a large degree. In past years, Canada actively spoke against adding chrysotile to the list. The net result was the same because the convention calls for consensus, which was not achieved since nations such as Pakistan and India oppose the ban. Those nations are among many in which asbestos-cement board remains a popular building product despite hazards that may arise if good work practices are not used when the material is cut or destroyed. Cement board is a strong building material used for many roofs and walls in countries that lack trees and/or the infrastrcuture needed for lumber for use for building materials, and is flexible enough that scrpas of it were molded into a giant penguin shown here because of concerns about the asbestos in it.
This outcome is major disappointment to groups such as the International Ban Asbestos Secretariat that has worked for over a decade to obtain a global ban on asbestos fiber sales.