CPHA applauds the Government of Canada on chrysotile asbestos decision

Friday, September 14, 2012

(Ottawa) – The Canadian Public Health Association (CPHA) welcomes the announcement by federal Industry Minister Christian Paradis of the government’s decision to stop defending asbestos mining in international circles and to no longer oppose adding chrysotile asbestos to the Rotterdam Convention, a global list of hazardous substances.

“We are delighted to learn about this change in policy by the Government of Canada”, stated Debra Lynkowski, CPHA’s CEO. “The public health community across Canada has been calling upon the Governments of Canada and Québec for years to ban the mining and export of chrysotile asbestos, to comply with all of the provisions of the Rotterdam Convention and to assist individuals and communities that would be affected by the shut-down of the asbestos industry.”

The Rotterdam Convention was created specifically to protect people in developing countries from being harmed by hazardous substances. Despite its support for a responsible use of chrysotile asbestos policy, Canada has been one of the countries – along with Zimbabwe, Russia and China – that stood in the way of international consensus by blocking the inclusion of chrysotile asbestos in a list of hazardous substances requiring prior informed consent when exporting them, as specified in the Rotterdam Convention.

“This is a public health issue in Canada and in many other countries around the world”, stated Erica Di Ruggiero, Chair of CPHA’s Board of Directors. “Canada has a moral obligation, backed by well-grounded evidence, to close down this industry and stop exporting a potentially hazardous material to countries that are ill-equipped to protect the health of workers who handle asbestos and people exposed to asbestos fibres. The Government of Canada has made a good ‘public health’ decision.”

CPHA further applauds the Government of Canada for its decision to set aside funds to help asbestos industry workers transition to other sectors.

In 2008, CPHA published a position statement calling for a ban on the mining, transformation and export of chrysotile asbestos by Canada. CPHA called on the Government of Canada to support the listing of chrysotile asbestos under the Rotterdam Convention and to provide just and adequate transition assistance income support and training for workers who would lose their jobs and financial assistance to communities that will be impacted as a result of the closure of the asbestos mines and production industry.

Chrysotile asbestos represents 100% of the world asbestos trade today and represents 95% of all asbestos ever used. Until today, Canada was the only western industrialized country that continued to mine and manufacture asbestos for exportation.

In a global context, the World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that currently 125 million people are exposed to asbestos at the workplace. At least 90,000 preventable deaths occur each year from asbestos-related lung cancer, mesothelioma and asbestosis resulting from occupational exposure.

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For more information contact:

Ian Culbert, Executive Director
Canadian Public Health Association
Telephone: 613.725.3769 ext 137
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About CPHA
Founded in 1910, the Canadian Public Health Association (CPHA) is the independent voice for public health in Canada with links to the international community. As the only Canadian non-governmental organization focused exclusively on public health, CPHA is uniquely positioned to advise decision-makers about public health system reform and to guide initiatives to help safeguard the personal and community health of Canadians and people around the world. With a diverse membership representing more than 25 professions, a track record of success, a collaborative approach and national reach, CPHA is Canada’s Public Health Leader.