The Gazette – ‘It is deeply immoral for Quebec to sell asbestos’

Mon, Feb 8, 2010

In the media

The Montreal Gazette continues its coverage of the asbestos issue with this scathing editorial, published February 4, 2010.

The article starts off by noting that:

Premier Jean Charest has now been called hypocritical for continuing to sell a product that the World Health Organization has labeled a public health hazard.

You can read the full commentary below, or follow the link by clicking here.

It is deeply immoral for Quebec to sell asbestos

The Gazette, February 4, 2010

The day should be long gone when a civilized society such as Quebec’s knowingly sells a carcinogenic substance – asbestos – to a poorer, developing country such as India.

Premier Jean Charest has now been called hypocritical for continuing to sell a product that the World Health Organization has labeled a public health hazard.

A coalition of more than 100 scientific experts from 28 countries sent a letter to Charest last week, on the eve of his trade-mission visit to India, pointing out that Quebec is facing an uspurge of asbestos-related illness. Asbestos is to blame, the province’s workers’ compensation board says, in 60 per cent of the 104 cases of Quebec workers who died from work-related causes in a seven-month period last year.

The experts also warned that there is now “irrefutable scientific proof that all types of asbestos are dangerous.”

Charest responded through a spokesperson, repeating the government’s – and the industry’s – line that as long as asbestos is “handled safely,” there’s no problem.

Wrong. There is a huge problem, because anywhere, but especially in a poor country, “handled safely” is a meaningless abstraction. The government’s inexplicable stubbornness in defence of this small indefensible industry is damaging to Quebec’s reputation. Some 175,000 tons of asbestos are exported annually, almost all of it to India, Bangladesh, and Indonesia and other countries where on-the-job health and safety are often more theory than practice, and where workers might well be ignorant of the danger of asbestos.

It is a deeply immoral act to sell to poor, desperate people a product that Quebec is spending millions of dollars to remove from its own buildings.

Chrysotile asbestos, the type that Quebec produces and that accounts for about 94 per cent of global asbestos production, is considered a carcinogen by the World Health Organization. Around the world an estimated 90,000 people die every year from asbestos-related diseases such as lung cancer and mesothelioma.

It’s true, as the Charest government argues, that chrysotile asbestos is not illegal, but according to the Institut national de santé publique du Québec, mesothelioma risks increase with any type of asbestos exposure.

In an interview with an Indian publication in December, New Democratic Party MP Pat Martin said, “Asbestos and tobacco are the two industries where the industry knows well it is killing people, but it survives by junk science and aggressive lobbying of politicians.”

Canada is the only Western nation still resisting international efforts to ban asbestos. It’s time to stop.

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One Response to “The Gazette – ‘It is deeply immoral for Quebec to sell asbestos’”

  1. Derrick Fernie Says:

    I got my face on the front page of this paper and I was in the Feb 27 2013 Vancouver Sun Newspaper talking about Asbestos. I’m currently bugging everyone about the environmental impact of Asbestos on people and the surrounding country side in the Area’s of these open pit mine’s people are riding their ATV’s and motor bikes and are getting exposed and exposing their loved ones to Cancer’s caused by Asbestos.

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