Tell Prime Minister Stephen Harper to stop blocking other countries’ right to know about the dangers of asbestos

E-mail or Fax Prime Minister Harper

This week represents a critical point in the protection of people around the world from the dangers of chrysotile asbestos.

Widely recognised as a carcinogen, the use of chrysotile asbestos is tightly controlled in Canada but it continues to be widely used in the majority (developing) world.

Canada is one of the world's leading exporters of chrysotile asbestos but has little use for it at home. Ninety-six percent of the production from the three operating mines in eastern Québec is exported.

India imports 43% of Canada’s exported asbestos. In India and other importing countries in Asia, Africa, and Latin America, chrysotile is most widely used as an additive in commonly-used cement products such as blocks, roofing tiles, wallboard and piping.

In 2005 chrysotile asbestos was banned throughout the European Union. In 2006 it was recommended for listing under the Rotterdam Convention, an international convention on hazardous substances. Listing would require that importing countries be informed about its dangers and give their consent to importing it. Listing does not ban the export or import of chrysotile but would likely reduce demand and be a further recognition that it poses a very serious danger to human health. These risks have already been recognised by the World Health Organization, the Canadian Cancer Society, and the Canadian Medical Association.

Canada has been standing in the way of chrysotile being listed on the Convention, and actively blocked its listing at the last meeting of the convention in 2006, despite support for listing from over 100 other countries. Our representatives have maintained that with appropriate safety measures and low exposure, chrysotile can be safely used.

This week delegates to the Rotterdam Convention will again be considering the inclusion of chrysotile to the convention. It’s time Canada stop its shameful support of the asbestos industry and take a position that is in favour of the protection of human health and well being.

Take Action

  1. Send a letter to your MP and Stephen Harper demanding that Canada stop blocking the listing of chrysotile asbestos on the Rotterdam Convention and that Canada end the production and export of asbestos. A sample letter can be found below.
  2. Pass on this urgent action.
  3. Call or e-mail your local newspaper, radio or TV station and tell them about your concerns.

Links for More Information

Ban Asbestos Canada
Canada’s Asbestos Time Bomb Ottawa Citizen Feature Series on Asbestos
Asbestos Mortality, A Canadian Export Canadian Medical Journal Editorial on Asbestos

Sample Letter

E-mail to: [email protected]
Fax to: 613-941-6900

Dear Prime Minister Harper,

You have committed to taking action on toxic substances and I commend and thank you for taking this position. To be consistent with your commitment it is vital that the Canadian government take immediate and proactive steps to move Canada out of the asbestos production and exporting business.

The chrysotile asbestos industry, which is highly subsidised by the Canadian government, is not only poisoning Canadians but is creating a toxic legacy in countries that have less ability to monitor and control the use of asbestos within their borders. This is not the kind of international contribution that Canadians hope to make to the world.

As a first crucial step, Canada must support the listing of chrysotile asbestos on the Rotterdam Convention. I implore you to direct the Canadian delegation to end its obstruction of the listing and fully support the addition chrysotile asbestos to the convention.

As a second step I would suggest that the funds currently used to subsidise the industry, including the $250,000 a year contribution to the Chrysotile Institute, be used to provide an economic transition for the 700 employees of the mines and their communities in eastern Québec.