Ontario, Canada - Despite the ruckus about asbestos mining in the Canadian province of Quebec, millions of asbestos-containing products are still being imported to several provinces, and residents of Ontario, in particular, are none too pleased about it.
According to an article in the Toronto Star, a survey made by Statistics Canada determined that at least two products that contain fairly sizeable amounts of asbestos are making their way into the country, namely brake pads and cement pipes. Of the 2.6 million brake pads imported to Canada last year, more than half wound up in Ontario, a statistic that has alarmed many residents concerned about the carcinogenic material.
Members of Ontario’s government say that even though the new ruling party in Quebec has announced that mining of chrysotile asbestos would end there and that the $58 million loan promised to the industry would be re-directed, asbestos problems in Canada are far from over.
“Because we don’t mine, because we don’t use it in manufacturing, we are under the false impression that it’s gone,” said Liberal MPP Liz Sandals. She introduced a bill earlier this year to ban in Ontario the use of brake pads containing asbestos.
Those who manufacture asbestos-containing brake pads claim that the asbestos on the pads is so tightly wound that it will not flake off and cause problems for mechanics, whose regular work includes replacing old, worn brake pads. Same goes for the cement pipes, they say.
But activists concerned with asbestos exposure claim that this isn’t the case. When pipes are cut or brakes worn down, the asbestos contained within them becomes airborne, where it can be inhaled. Anyone who inhales even small amounts of asbestos fibers is a candidate for developing mesothelioma cancer, they point out.
Canada has, for decades, exported asbestos to countries such as China and India, claiming that the white, chrysotile form of the mineral is safe if handled properly. Those countries – and other Third World countries – have lax laws governing the use of asbestos. Though Canada does not allow its use in these and other products, these foreign-manufactured pipes or brakes can wind up back in the country, the article notes.
“Ironically, brake pads made overseas with Canadian asbestos can make their way back here to be installed in cars. It’s a loophole in our laws that prevent manufacturers from using asbestos, but allow products containing it to come in from abroad,” the article explains.
Paul Demers, director of the Occupational Cancer Research Centre, says he sees hundreds of new cases of asbestos-caused cancer diagnosed each year in Ontario.
“It is probably the single biggest work-related cancer that we know and it’s due to exposure 30 to 40 years ago,” he said. “We’re still paying the price for having used asbestos in the past, which is why we need to take every measure we can to stop asbestos use now.”