Make India Asbestos Free

Make India Asbestos Free
For Asbestos Free India

Journal of Ban Asbestos Network of India (BANI) that works for Asbestos Free India inspired by trade union leader Purnendu Majumadar. Occupational Health India and ToxicsWatch Alliance are its members that includes doctors, researchers and activists. BANI demands criminal liability for companies and medico-legal remedy for victims. It works with trade unions, human rights, environmental, consumer and public health groups. For Details: 1715krishna@gmail.com

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Scientists call on federal government of Canada to release asbestos study

Two internationally recognized experts who contributed to a Health Canada study on the cancer risks of asbestos are appealing to the federal health minister to make their report public.


The federal agency hired seven scientific and medical experts from around the world last November to examine the risks.

After submitting their report in March, the experts said they were told it would be made public within weeks, but it still hasn't been released.

Health Minister Tony Clement's office told the CBC the report will be made public once his officials have reviewed it.

Leslie Stayner, head of the School of Public Health at the University of Illinois, as well as Trevor Ogden, the chair of the panel of experts, have each written letters to Clement decrying the delay.

"It is simply unacceptable for this report to continue to be withheld from the public, while individuals who have seen the report and our comments make erroneous allegations about what it contains to suit their political objectives," Stayner wrote in his letter.

Last week, Bloc Québécois MP André Bellavance rose in the House of Commons to argue against growing calls to ban chrysotile, a form of asbestos, implying Health Canada's new study supports his view.

Both Stayner and Ogden, however, said the panel was never asked its opinion on whether a ban on any form of asbestos was appropriate, and that it was only charged with examining the relative potency of exposure to chrysotile versus other forms of asbestos, and how best to estimate the risk of cancer from exposure.

"I want to make the record clear that nothing in the report would argue against the sensibility of an asbestos ban in Canada or for that matter anywhere else in the world," Stayner told CBC.

Canada is the only developed nation still producing asbestos, called a deadly threat by the International Labour Organization, the World Health Organization, the International Association for Cancer Research and many more health agencies.

The Canadian government believes asbestos is safe if handled properly and has spent nearly $20 million in the past two decades to promote exports of the mineral, almost all of it going to developing nations such as India, Indonesia and Pakistan for use in construction material.
Labour congress wants compensation for miners

Michel Arsenault, president of the Quebec Federation of Labour, in February convinced his colleagues at the Canadian Labour Congress not to call for a ban on asbestos mining until after the Health Canada study was completed and made public.

Even though that hasn't happened, the executive council of the CLC passed a resolution on the weekend on behalf of its members calling for an end to asbestos production, as well as economic transition support for the roughly 700 Quebec asbestos miners who would be affected by a shutdown of the industry.

In his letter, Stayner said that while the panel was not asked to rule on whether chrysotile asbestos can be used safely, "from a pragmatic point of view, my answer to this question would be that it [safe use] is simply not possible."

Quebec's asbestos industry includes Canada's only two asbestos mines. The province has one of the highest rates of mesothelioma — cancer almost always related to asbestos exposure — in the world.

Asbestos has been banned by nearly every developed country, as well as a growing number of developing nations. The World Health Organization has estimated as many as 100,000 people around the world die annually from asbestos-related diseases.

May 26, 2008
CBC

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