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The Canadian government has made an important concession recently that will likely have a worldwide impact. Until 2003, Canada was responsible for the production of about one-third of all the asbestos in the world. Because of this position, the Canadian government previously opposed the move to officially add asbestos to an international list of hazardous materials.
It has been known for decades that inhaling airborne asbestos can prove to be toxic. It can cause mesothelioma and other lung diseases that can take up to 40 years to develop. However, Canada has long argued against adding it to the list of hazardous materials because it would require that exporters warn others of the dangers associated with asbestos.
However, Canada has recently agreed to support the addition of asbestos to the international list.
The designation does not mean that a substance is banned, but instead it requires more accountability for dangerous materials. Countries can continue to produce asbestos and ship it around the world, but now they simply must warn importers of the risks associated with asbestos exposure.
Canada was once a huge producer of asbestos and government officials felt that production would be seriously decreased if it was designated as a hazardous material. Instead of recognizing that asbestos exposure is responsible for killing more than 100,000 people every year, they tried to argue that not all asbestos is harmful if used appropriately.
But changes in political leadership have resulted in some adjustments. Not only will the Canadian government support the hazardous material designation, but they also plan on ending all asbestos output in Quebec, the only place in Canada where asbestos is actively mined. With less asbestos being mined and exported around the world, hopefully fewer people will end up suffering fatal diseases as a result of exposure.
Source: Reuters, “Canada to stop opposing listing asbestos as hazardous,” Randall Palmer, Sept. 14, 2012
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