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

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Asbestos scare shines light on lack of government funding for victims

Note:It is noteworthy that like India, Canada doesn't specifically track asbestos-related disease, nor are there any national foundations or associations devoted to the problem. Both the countries seem to be working at the behest of Russian government and asbestos industry. There is not much help out there for anyone affected by the carcinogen.

OTTAWA - As debris rained down on scores of houses during last week's explosion at a propane plant in Toronto, no one was thinking about asbestos contamination.

They are now - and critics are warning there is not much help out there for anyone affected by the carcinogen. Canada doesn't specifically track asbestos-related disease, nor are there any national foundations or associations devoted to the problem.

Toronto parents and were outraged after asbestos from the explosion was found in a playground where children continued to play days after the incident.

But many hope the incidents will expose the lack of government funding and resources available to Canadians.

"I think if the Canadian public really knew the extent of harm that asbestos has caused, I think there would be an outrage over what the federal government is doing," said Jim Brophy, global asbestos expert.

As the former director of the Occupational Health and Safety Clinics for Ontario Workers, Brophy says his group registered a new patient with an asbestos disease four out of five working days last year alone.

"I cannot describe to you the public health epidemic that unfolded before us and is still happening," he said.

The post-explosion asbestos contamination in Toronto is not an isolated incident, as the cancer-causing substance is continuously being uncovered across the country.

Workers are currently removing chrysotile asbestos-the type still mined in Canada-from the Parliament buildings as part of a $1-billion renovation project.

It is estimated there are still hundreds of thousands of homes throughout Canada still containing Zonolite insulation, a product found to be tainted with asbestos and identified as a health hazard by Health Canada in 2004.

The flame retardant qualities of many forms of asbestos made it a popular choice of building material for decades.

As a result, virtually all public buildings constructed prior to 1980 contain some form of asbestos.

For years, the U.S. and much of Europe have monitored cases of asbestos-related illnesses, but there is no centralized system in Canada.

"We're probably the only industrialized country not tracking the extent of the disease and its impact on our society," said Brophy.

The Canadian Cancer Society says asbestos - including chrysotile - is associated with an increased risk of lung cancer and other diseases, but says it is not aware of any government funded resources.

Health Canada insists on graphic health warnings on tobacco products to warn Canadians about the risks of smoking, but Alastair Sinclair, spokesman for Health Canada, confirmed the department is not involved with any funding for public resources associated with asbestos and related health risks.

Support groups and public education resources are not easily found in Canada and some critics say they know why.

Canada is the third largest exporter of chrysotile asbestos worldwide and has continuously blocked efforts by the UN to list chrysotile as a hazardous substance.

Pat Martin, NDP MP and former asbestos miner, says the government's long-standing overseas promotion of asbestos is what's keeping the health risks under wraps.

"Certainly the government will not support anything that may be viewed as critical of asbestos when they're the chief cheerleaders for the asbestos industry," said Martin.

The Chrysolite Institute, an organization dedicated to promoting chrysotile asbestos use "under safe conditions", continues to receive money from the federal government.

According to Martin, it is this kind of backward funding that is leaving Canadians in the dark about asbestos.

"Our irrational affinity for asbestos has stalled diagnostics, research and advocacy for asbestos-related disease," he said.

August 14, 2008

Daina Lawrence, THE CANADIAN PRESS

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