Make India Asbestos Free

Make India Asbestos Free
For Asbestos Free India

Ban Asbestos Network of India (BANI) 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, oshindia@yahoo.in

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Immoral exports

April 21, 2009

For too long the federal government, to its shame, has denied and avoided
evidence about the dangers of chrysotile asbestos, a product that Canada
mines and exports around the world.

The new release of a Health Canada report, documenting as it does a "strong
relationship" between lung cancer and exposure to chrysotile asbestos, means
the government can rationalize its irresponsible behaviour no longer, and
must finally ban these exports. Canada's reputation as a moral player on the
international stage is being jeopardized by its willingness to ship asbestos
to some of the poorest parts of the world.

As one of the largest exporters of chrysotile asbestos in the world, Canada
has fiercely protected this dying industry, which now supports only about
550 jobs in Quebec. Canada's official position has been that chrysolite
asbestos is safer than other asbestos products because it has shorter
fibres, and with proper handling and practices is acceptable for use.

A number of experts behind the Health Canada report criticized the
"safe-use" idea. One said that it's "misleading" for Canada to suggest that
a poor country like India, which receives the bulk of Canada's chrysolite
asbestos, will find a way to use it more safely than it has been used in the
wealthy West.

In 2006, Canada had a particular shameful moment when it led a group of
countries that blocked the naming of chrysotile asbestos as a hazardous
chemical in the Rotterdam Convention. The inclusion of this product would
not have banned sales but would have required exporting countries to provide
information to importing countries about the dangers of the stuff.

Moreover, not only has Canada taken a lead in blocking international efforts
to make the use of chrysotile asbestos safer but the government has stalled
on making public its own expert report on the subject.

The report, commissioned by Health Canada, was completed more than a year
ago yet was only made public this month by Canwest News Service, which had
waited 10 months -- yes, 10 months -- for a response to an Access to
Information request. Indeed, the British chair of the panel that wrote the
report had accused the Canadian government of "misusing science" and, in
failing to make the report public, of practicing "needless government
secrecy."

Ultimately, the debate about whether one form of asbestos is more likely to
cause certain types of cancer than others is not the point. It's sufficient
that the newly-released study shows that exposure to chrysotile asbestos is
not safe. As panellist Leslie Stayner, director of epidemiology and
biostatistics at the University of Illinois School of Public Health, put it:
"The fundamental question of whether it's hazardous or not is clear. I think
the answer to that is, yes, chrysotile is a hazardous substance."

Canada's willingness to peddle asbestos to the world's most vulnerable
populations, all for the sake of a few dollars in Quebec, is a long-standing
disgrace. The current federal government is notorious for its ability to
dismiss empirical data and the counsel of scientific experts, but perhaps
the Health Canada report will be one study that even this government will be
too embarrassed to ignore.

The Ottawa Citizen
Editorial

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