At last Canada bans deadly asbestos: Editorial

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The alarm bells about asbestos started sounding in the 1970s. By 1987, when the World Health Organization declared the mineral, used in thousands of products from insulation to brake pads, to be a “human carcinogen,” they had become deafening. But even in the face of a mounting death toll from asbestos-related lung diseases, and while it was spending millions to remove the substance from federal buildings, Canada refused to ban the import or export of the toxic mineral. In fact, until as recently as 2011 Canada shamefully mined asbestos and exported it to unwary Third World countries. And to this day millions of dollars worth of asbestos-laden products are imported into Canada each year, endangering Canadian lives, even though 55 other countries have banned it.That willful blindness finally came to an end last week when Science Minister Kirsty Duncan announced the government will ban the import and export of asbestos to this country by 2018. The comprehensive ban can’t come soon enough.Studies by the Canadian Cancer Society have found asbestos exposure kills more than 2,000 people in Canada each year. And the Canadian Labour Congress estimates 150,000 Canadian workers are regularly exposed to asbestos through jobs in construction, waste management, auto maintenance and ship building. Article Continued BelowThat doesn’t include people who are inadvertently exposed to it when they renovate older homes or simply drill into the walls of old apartment buildings. Worse, it can take 40 years for asbestos-related diseases such as asbestosis, mesothelioma and lung cancer to surface, meaning people will continue to die of exposure to it long after the ban comes into full force.Yet until last Thursday Canada officially ignored the mounting medical evidence of its dangers and the insistent lobbying by organizations such as the Canadian Medical Association and the Canadian Cancer Society to ban it.

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