Ottawa, Canada - A Canadian news outlet has discovered that federal government officials acknowledged the dangers of chrysotile asbestos at least a decade ago, but continued to rally to keep the material off the Rotterdam Convention’s hazardous material list, striving to maintain a healthy export business for the many asbestos mines in Quebec.
According to an article by the Postmedia News Network, a memo to Environment Minister Peter Kent, obtained via the Access to Information Act, showed that the official clearly understand that the Rotterdam Convention was on solid ground in 2002 when it proposed placing chrysotile asbestos on their list of hazardous materials. Being placed on the list would have seriously impacted the export of the material to the many Third World countries to which Canada was sending the toxic mineral.
Under the rules of the Rotterdam Convention, had chrysotile asbestos been placed on that list, Canada would have had to abide by the Prior Informed Consent Law, which would have required that they inform the importer of the risks of using the material and the proper precautionary measures for handling the material.
The discovery of the memorandum comes at a time when Quebec’s asbestos mines are struggling. Operations in Thetford and Asbestos were suspended last November, and though the owners are rallying to get them open again, opposition to asbestos mining is growing throughout the country.
MP Pat Martin, a former miner and long-time opponent of the industry, noted that the memo “blows open Canada’s public position on asbestos”, the article states.
“They've ignored the scientists. They didn't just deny the science. They acknowledged it but yet ignored it. That is unforgivable, in my view,” Martin said when he learned of the memorandum to the Environment Minister. “They've put commercial and political interests ahead of scientific interests and, in doing, compromised and undermined the whole purpose and intent of the convention,” he added.
The ministerial memo stated that chrysotile asbestos is often contaminated with tremolite asbestos, a more potent form of the mineral and one that is definitively linked with the development of the cancer known as mesothelioma. Cases of mesothelioma are abundant among former and current asbestos miners.