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Canada's Asbestos Ban to Take Effect This Year, with Exceptions

Canada has drafted final regulations to ban asbestos by the end of the year. The regulations will prohibit the sale, import, and use of processed asbestos fibers, and the import, manufacture, and sale and use of products containing processed asbestos fibers. However, according to CBC News and other media outlets, an analysis of the final rules revealed that, “they have been watered down from what the federal government originally proposed.”

The regulations will not prohibit mining activities and they won't apply to structures or products that already contain asbestos. In addition, the final regulations include new exemptions to allow nuclear facilities, chlor-alkali plants, and the military to continue using the toxic mineral for several years. Canada’s chlor-alkali industry will have until the end of 2029 to phase out its use of asbestos. It originally had until 2025.

The countries nuclear facilities and military will be free to import, buy, and use products containing asbestos to service their equipment until the end of 2022 "if no technically or economically feasible asbestos-free alternative is available."

The military also gets an "ongoing exclusion" to import, buy and use military equipment serviced with a product containing asbestos while it was outside Canada, reports CBC News. Other exclusions and exceptions include:

  • Permits to use asbestos or products including asbestos where they "are required to protect the environment or human health where there is no technically or economically feasible alternative available." Permits will last for one year and there are reporting requirements.
  • Re-using "asbestos in existing road infrastructure into new road infrastructure or in asbestos mining site restoration" with no end date.
  • Exporting asbestos. For example, asbestos in personal or household effects intended for personal use will be allowed, as will asbestos contained in military equipment, asbestos contained in a product used prior to the amendments coming into force, and asbestos in raw material exported to manufacture a product that is not a consumer product.

Those who have lobbied against asbestos use in Canada are unhappy with the final regulations. NDP MP Sheri Benson said, “exemptions from the ban will increase the risk of cancer and other lung diseases.” She went on to state that the prime minister “must keep his promise and implement a comprehensive and complete ban on asbestos immediately.”

Asbestos exposure “is the leading cause of occupational death in Canada,” she said. “We cannot stand idly by while Canadian workers and their families continue to be exposed to asbestos.”

Activist Kathleen Ruff, “is particularly concerned about clauses in the final regulations that would allow companies to sift through years’ worth of asbestos mining waste to look for magnesium,” reports CBC News. “I'm troubled by the fact that there are these weaknesses and gaps and, if anything, they seem to have gotten worse,” she said.

In a statement regarding the final rules, Environment Minister Catherine McKenna said that the exemptions would not “impact human health,” which is “our top priority.” The federal government is “keeping the promise it made in 2016,” she said.

If you have been exposed to asbestos, see your doctor right away to evaluate your risk of developing asbestos-related diseases such as mesothelioma. Early detection could lead to better treatment options and outcomes, so talk to your doctor today.

 

Sources

Kazan-Allen, Laurie. “Current Asbestos Bans.” International Ban Asbestos Secretariat. International Ban Asbestos Secretariat, 23 Oct. 2018. Web. 06 Dec. 2018.

Thompson, Elizabeth. “New federal asbestos ban includes controversial exemptions.” CBC News. CBC/Radio-Canada, 18 Oct. 2018. Web. 06 Dec. 2018.