It might surprise some people to know that Canada is currently the second largest exporter of asbestos in the world. The country has recently come under a ton of fire due to a plan to increase exporting of this dangerous material in the great white north. Even though some representatives in Canada and other countries are supporting and backing up its use, asbestos is a dangerous fiber that’s been known to lead to health risks such as lung cancer, mesothelioma, and asbestosis. While there are other countries under fire for asbestos, Canada’s push to export the material should be under heavy fire, mainly because they don’t allow use of it within their own country, while still allowing it to be sent out and used in a number of developing countries.
At one time, asbestos was one of the most produced materials in the world, now it’s known as a common risk to overall health. First mined in the 1870’s, it got an overwhelming amount of use throughout the 20th century in all sorts of building materials from building structures and shipyards to housing. Ironically, asbestos was known for its reliability in protection, this was until workers around asbestos started developing major health risks like mesothelioma and lung cancer. With the dangers of lung cancer and mesothelioma life expectancy being so severe, asbestos began to be banned regularly and consistently for the past 30 to 40 years.
Even with the growing list of countries that have ended the use of asbestos, some countries such as Canada and Russia, continue to export the material at the risk of others health. The world health organization has also banned asbestos, citing it as a carcinogenic. The mineral is also banned in all 27 European Union member countries. While other countries have taken this stance, Canada continues to promote the controlled use of asbestos. They even continue the fight to keep the mineral off a U.N. list of dangerous substances.
A major problem with this decision is the types of countries they’re sending asbestos to, such as countries in Southeast Asia that have no ban at all on this dangerous fiber. Even worse, they have very little resources to treat or handle the types of illnesses that those exposed may be at a risk of. While wealthy countries continue to export asbestos to developing, small, and poor areas, these types of health risks will likely increase again as they did in the 1960’s and 1970’s.
Just recently, some Canadian officials are permitting the expanded mining of asbestos, even with its use being banned within the country. Of course the increase in mining would likely lead to more jobs, but that would certainly come with the price of health risk for the increased number of people working in the mines. The risk certainly isn’t worth it for people in countries like India, Vietnam, and Thailand among others, where the material is being exported to. A number of these people would be at huge risk of exposure and health risk.
With the overall use of asbestos declining and awareness of the associated health risks increased, the decisions being made by some representatives to increase exporting this material are unacceptable. There remain a number of formidable and affordable alternatives today. The stance that some countries are taking on this is hypocritical, as asbestos are often shunned at home, yet exported out for use elsewhere. Moving forward, less development, mining, and use of asbestos as a whole will always be in the best interest of the health of people all over.