Resolution 2010.01: Chrysotile Asbestos

November 04, 2013

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Whereas,  Canada actively blocks the addition of chrysotile asbestos to the Rotterdam Convention on the Prior Informed Consent Procedure for Certain Hazardous Chemicals and Pesticides in International Trade, while the Chemical Review Committee of the Rotterdam Convention recommends its addition to Annex III (a list of chemicals); and

Whereas, Chrysotile asbestos is a hazardous substance listed in Canada’s Hazardous Products Act and is recognized as a carcinogen by agencies such as the World Health Organization, the International Labour Organization, and the Canadian Medical Association; and

Whereas, Canada mines and exports chrysotile asbestos to developing countries that do not restrict or regulate its use; therefore, be it

Resolved, That the national council of The Catholic Women’s League of Canada, in 90th annual national convention assembled, strongly urge the federal government to support the addition of chrysotile asbestos to the Rotterdam Convention on the Prior Informed Consent Procedure for Certain Hazardous Chemicals and Pesticides in International Trade; and, be it further

Resolved, That the national council of The Catholic Women’s League of Canada, in 90th annual national convention assembled, urge the federal government: to stop the export of chrysotile asbestos to developing countries by the year 2015 to call for a ban on the mining of chrysotile asbestos by the year 2015

BRIEF: Chrysotile Asbestos

Chrysotile asbestos is a carcinogen recognized by the World Health Organization (WHO 2006 p. 1), the International Labour Organization (ILO 2006 p. 3 Appendix), Canada’s Hazardous Products Act Regulations SOR/2007-260, the Canadian Medical Association (CMA 2009) and the Canadian Cancer Society (CCS web page). Chrysotile asbestos is a naturally occurring flame retardant mineral mined in Quebec. It is used mainly in cement building products, sewer and water pipes. Through mining and manufacturing along with natural weathering, chrysotile asbestos is released into the air and water (WHO 1998 summary). Exposure to asbestos causes a range of diseases, such as lung cancer, mesothelioma and asbestosis (fibrosis of the lungs) (WHO 2006 p. 1).

The Rotterdam Convention was formed circa 1989 under the United Nations Environment Programme and the Food and Agriculture Organization. Its Rotterdam Convention on the Prior Informed Consent Procedure for Certain Hazardous Chemicals and Pesticides in International Trade lists and monitors substances deemed hazardous, for the protection of workers and citizens who are exposed to them. It does not ban the substances, but rather, “helped to ensure that governments have the information they need about hazardous chemicals for assessing risks and taking informed decisions on chemical imports” (Rotterdam Convention). Developing countries, especially, do not have the regulations and protective agencies in place to ensure the safety of their workers (Brophy p. 236). The Prior Informed Consent procedure mandates countries to adhere to procedures that would help protect workers in the industries that use hazardous material.

Canada exports 95% of its asbestos primarily to India, Indonesia, Bangladesh and other Asian countries where it is mixed with cement to make asbestos cement products, mainly cement sheets used for roofs. The World Health Organization has expressed particular concern over this use of asbestos cement in construction because the products are widely dispersed, deteriorate over time and pose an unknown risk to people carrying out alterations, maintenance and demolition (Ruff p. 18).

Many Canadian organizations have called for a ban on asbestos: the Canadian Union of Public Employees, the Canadian Auto Workers Union, the Canadian Association of University Teachers, and others (Brophy p. 240). Asbestos has been banned entirely in many developed countries, and western countries that still use it, severely restrict it. Canada is harming people’s health by promoting its use and leading diplomatic opposition to the listing of chrysotile asbestos under the Rotterdam Convention. (Attaran, Amir, et al)

Canada has listed asbestos under the Hazardous Products Act (Government of Canada, Registration page), yet continues to mine and export this dangerous product. Science, international studies and reputable organizations acknowledge the hazardous nature of asbestos and indicate a total ban is warranted. As a first step, Canada must support the addition of chrysotile asbestos to Annex III of the Rotterdam Convention on Prior Informed Consent Procedure for Certain Hazardous Chemicals and Pesticides in International Trade.
Furthermore, Canada must initiate efforts to stop the mining and export of asbestos instead of undermining the country’s credibility by continuing to ignore the overwhelming scientific evidence against the use of asbestos.

WORKS CITED:

Attaran, Amir, et al. “Asbestos mortality: a Canadian export.” Canadian Medical Association Journal, 179.9 (October 21, 2008): 871-872.

Brophy, James, et al. “Canada’s asbestos legacy at home and abroad.” International Journal of Occupational and Environmental Health, 13.2 (April/May 2007): 235-242.
<http://www.ijoeh.com/index.php/ijoeh/article/view/291> (abstract)

Canadian Cancer Society. Asbestos. (web page/position statement)
<http://www.cancer.ca/canadawide/prevention/specific%20environmental%20contaminants/asbestos.aspx>

Canadian Medical Association. Policy resolution GC09-91: Chrysotile asbestos. Ottawa: CMA, August 19, 2009. <http://policybase.cma.ca/dbtw-wpd/CMAPolicy/PublicB.htm> (search chrysotile asbestos)

Government of Canada. Asbestos Product Regulations SOR/2007-260. Ottawa: The Government, November 15, 2007. <http://www.justice.gc.ca>
Government of Canada. Hazardous Products Act. Ottawa: The Government, May 28, 2010.
<http://laws.justice.gc.ca/PDF/Statute/H/H-3.pdf>

International Labour Organization. Follow-up to resolutions adopted by the 95th Session (2006) of the International Labour Conference and other matters arising: Resolution concerning asbestos. Appendix: Resolution adopted by the International Labour Conference at its 95th Session (Geneva, June 2007): Resolution concerning asbestos. Geneva: ILO, November 2006.<http://www.ilo.org/wcmsp5/groups/public/—ed_norm/–\relconf/documents/meetingdocument/wcms_gb_297_3_1_en.pdf>

Rotterdam Convention. Rotterdam Convention on the Prior Informed Consent Procedure for Certain Hazardous Chemicals and Pesticides in International Trade (revised in 2008).
Rome: Secretariat of the Rotterdam Convention, 2008. <http://www.pic.int/en/ConventionText/RC%20text_2008_E.pdf>

Ruff, Kathleen. Exporting Harm: How Canada Markets Asbestos to the Developing World. Ottawa: Rideau Institute, March 2009.
<http://www.rideauinstitute.ca/file-library/exportingharmweb.pdf>

World Health Organization. Chrysotile Asbestos. (Environmental Health Criteria, no. 203). Geneva: WHO, 1998. <http://www.inchem.org/documents/ehc/ehc/ehc203.htm> or
<http://apps.who.int/bookorders/anglais/detartl.jspsesslan=1&codlan=1&codcol=16&codcch=203>

World Health Organization. Elimination of asbestos-related diseases. Geneva: WHO, 2006. <http://www.who.int/occupational_health/publications/asbestosrelateddiseases.pdf>

ACTION PLAN:

Write letters to local members of parliament, the prime minister and to the ministers of health, justice, natural resources and foreign affairs, seeking Canada’s agreement to have chrysotile asbestos included on the list of hazardous substances in Annex III of the Rotterdam Convention on the Prior Informed Consent Procedure for Certain Hazardous Chemicals and Pesticides in International Trade.

Write letters to local members of parliament, the prime minister and to the ministers of health, justice, natural resources and foreign affairs, asking that Canada stop exporting chrysotile asbestos , and ban the mining of asbestos.

Educate members about the effects of hazardous substances such as chrysotile asbestos, in homes, public buildings, and on human health and the environment.
Monitor the government’s plan of action in response to the request contained in the resolution