Québec Asbestos Victims Address Tokyo Conference

Roch Lanthier of the Asbestos Victims Association of Québec (AVAQ) presented at the Global Asbestos Conference in Tokyo November 19-21. He called for a new vision for asbestos producing areas of Québec, that would heal the damage caused by asbestos mining and would allow the economy to be changed in a manner similar to the World Bank-supported Eden Project.

In the asbestos region of Québec, there are over thirty enormous tailings piles in an inhabited area of 120 km2. These sand-like tailings were found to contain 10% chrysotile. The tailings are used for landscaping and road construction all over the region.

Sampling undertaken by AVAQ shows that the air in the houses surrounded by the tailings is polluted - 15 out of 26 houses are above the US AHERA (Asbestos Hazard Emergency Response Act) guidelines. Women of the area have the highest rate of mesothelioma in the world.

Canada is the only western industrialised country producing, promoting and exporting chrysotile. The Asbestos Institute promotes the export of chrysotile to developing countries under the pretense of promoting its safe use. All the production of chrysotile in Canada comes from a small area of Québec where fewer than 900 people are employed in the mines. More people in Canada work in the removal of asbestos than in its production. The chrysotile industry is rapidly declining in Québec because of international competition and the restriction of markets.

Canada has also been transferring chrysotile technologies to competing countries, such as Russia and China.

Canada and Québec both have policies that promote the use of chrysotile asbestos; Hydro-Québec electrical poles are to be made of asbestos. Asbestos workers and their community are being told that if they "keep quiet", the industry will rise again.