Canada’s proposed asbestos ban to benefit public health?

January 8, 2018

The federal government has released its proposed regulations banning the use, import and sale of asbestos, as well as the manufacture and import of products containing asbestos. Canada now joins over 50 countries that have banned asbestos, which is linked to mesothelioma, asbestosis and a range of cancers.

“The proposed regulation has been a long time coming. It is an essential piece of the federal strategy announced last year,” says Fe de Leon, Researcher and Paralegal at the Canadian Environmental Law Association. “This regulation provides some certainty that asbestos exposure to Canadians and workers will reduce over time starting in 2019. However, the government should take this opportunity to build on its strategy to address potential exposure from legacy asbestos.”

In the coming weeks, NGOs will review the government’s proposed regulations to ensure that the ultimate goal to ban asbestos is achieved.

Elements of the proposed regulations that require further consideration include:

• Shortening exclusions permitted under the regulations through the adoption of safe alternatives, particularly the chlor-alkali industry.

• Requiring alternative assessment for affected industries to ensure the transition to safe alternatives.
• The establishment acceptable limits of asbestos residue.

• Ensuring annual reporting and permitting requirements for asbestos use are publicly released and accessible.

The government’s analysis suggests that the proposed regulations would reduce asbestos by approximately 4700 tonnes between 2019-2035, primarily from three industry sectors: chlor-alkali, automotive and construction.

Exclusions are proposed for the chlor-alkali industry until 2025.

“The proposed regulation should require industry to find safe alternatives to asbestos now,” says Joseph Castrilli, Counsel at the Canadian Environmental Law Association. “The focus on alternatives will facilitate reduced asbestos exposure over time.”

In December 2016, advocates and civil society organizations urged Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to establish an expert review panel on asbestos to investigate and find solutions for sources of on-going asbestos exposure and establish transition plans for communities affected by asbestos.