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Canada Targets Asbestos, New Building Codes

Thursday, December 22, 2016

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Government officials in Canada say they are committed to eliminating asbestos in the country by 2018.

In recent news conference, Canada’s Science Minister Kirsty Duncan announced the planned ban, noting specifically that national building codes would be amended to prohibit the use of asbestos-containing materials in new construction and renovation projects throughout the country, numerous news outlets report.

Asbestos
Chilanga Cement via Flickr / CC 2.0

Asbestos mining in Canada was once a thriving industry. Asbestos, Quebec, once operated one of the largest operations in the world, the Jeffrey Mine (shown).

The naturally occurring fibrous mineral is a known human carcinogen that has already been banned in more than 50 countries around the world, according to the World Health Organization. In addition to cancer, inhaling asbestos fibers can also lead to diseases like asbestosis, the scarring of the lungs, the WHO reports.

The mineral’s extraordinary tensile strength, poor heat conduction and resistance to chemical attack make it an ingredient in a variety of products, including roofing and fire-proofing materials and automotive parts, the WHO notes. It was also commonly used as insulation in buildings.

‘Long Overdue’

Under the ban, Canada plans to stop imports of asbestos-containing construction materials and other products. Various anti-asbestos laws are to be created over the next two years.

Advocates have applauded the announcement, calling the action “long overdue,” and noting that hundreds of thousands of people have died while the dangers of the material have been known for decades.

Studies say 2,000 Canadian workers die of asbestos-related diseases each year, The Star reports. The workers are in a range of industries including construction, waste management, auto maintenance and ship building. About 125 million people in the world are exposed to asbestos at the workplace, the WHO notes.

asbestos fibres
Aramgutang / Wikimedia Commons

The mineral fibres are still used in some building materials and other products due to its extraordinary tensile strength, poor heat conduction and resistance to chemical attack.

Asbestos mining in Canada was once a thriving industry, according to The Star. The report notes that there is a town in Quebec named after the material due to the large operations there. The country’s last mine was reportedly shuttered in 2011.

Canada does have regulations in place governing asbestos exposure to consumers and in the workplace.

Building Registry

The government officials also want to expand its online registry of asbestos-containing buildings owned or leased by the government entities.

Jesse Todd, chair of the Saskatchewan Asbestos Awareness Organization, told the CBC news outlet that he wants to see the federal government “put pressure on provinces and municipalities to also track contaminated public buildings, including hospitals, schools, and hockey arenas.” Saskatchewan has such a list, the report says.

Some advocates also recommend a tracking and monitoring system for people who have been exposed to asbestos, reports said.

The U.S. does not have a complete ban on the mineral. Asbestos is listed among the first 10 chemicals the Environmental Protection Agency is investigating under new powers granted by the Toxic Substance Control Act reform.

   

Tagged categories: Asbestos; Building materials; Fatalities; Government; Health and safety; Public Buildings; Regulations

Comment from HANH TRAN, (12/22/2016, 9:55 AM)

The use of asbestos in today's new construction materials is simply mind boggling to me; it's not just exposes the occupants to harmful materials but also added unnecessary financial burden on the building owners for hazmat surveys and certification. Good for Canada, on this ban. Is there known resources available listing of materials that contain asbestos?


Comment from M. Halliwell, (12/22/2016, 11:03 AM)

Hahn, as far as I am aware, there is no listing in Canada or the US of materials that contain asbestos. Not only is it a problem of manufacturing (some imports come from countries who still use it and it may not be an obvious constituent of the finished product) and some materials are brought in that are contaminated by it (I know one <20 year old complex with beautiful green tile floors of amphibolite rock...which also contained an amphibole form of asbestos). At least most of the things we are seeing with it these days are generally non-friable (though with use some of it does become friable....like the dust from brake pads).


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