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Canadian Public Health Association

An open letter to the Ministers of the Environment and of Natural Resources

May 7, 2015

The Honourable Leona Aglukkaq
Minister of the Environment
10, rue Wellington
Gatineau, Quebec
K1A 0H3
The Honourable Greg Rickford
Minister of Natural Resources
580 Booth Street, 21st Floor, Room: C7-1
Ottawa, Ontario
K1A 0E4

Dear Ministers:

In June 2010, the Canadian Public Health Association (CPHA) issued a position statement calling for a ban on the mining, transformation and export of chrysotile asbestos. A copy of this document is attached for your information. CPHA has taken this position based on the known toxicity of chrysotile asbestos; in fact, use of this substance in the workplace has resulted in nearly 5000 approved death claims since 1996. These deaths are in spite of Canada’s limited use of asbestos.

The upcoming Conference of the Parties to the Rotterdam Convention provides Canada with an opportunity to lend its voice to the efforts, internationally, to add asbestos to the Annex III of this Treaty. Such an action would require countries exporting products containing asbestos to clearly label it as a risk to human health. Our understanding is that Canada’s position will be to neither support nor argue against its inclusion.

CPHA believes that Canada should strongly support the inclusion of chrysotile asbestos in this Treaty. This position is based on the known hazard that this substance presents, and the limited economic impact such an action would have on Canada. As you know, the last asbestos mine in Quebec closed in 2011, and our importation of products containing asbestos (mainly automobile brake pads, brake lining and some construction material totaling about $6 million annually) is minimal and could be replaced with products that do not contain this hazardous substance.

As such, we believe that Canada should follow the lead of Australia and the European Union, and oppose the efforts of the Russian Federation, by openly supporting the inclusion of chrysotile asbestos in Annex III the Treaty. We also believe that Canada should take further steps to limit possible exposure to asbestos by instituting a time-specific ban on asbestos-containing products in Canada.

Yours sincerely,

Ardene Robinson Vollman, PhD, RN, CCHN(C)
Chair, Canadian Public Health Association