Throughout the time Asbestos has been mined, Canada has been one of the biggest mining countries of this mineral, and 90% of the product produced in Canada has been globally exported. In more recent times, a majority of the exports have gone to developing countries. In these countries, Asbestos is still used in a vast number of products including building supplies, roof shingles, break pads, cement pipes, and insulation. Although it is not as common anymore, when Asbestos was first discovered and mined about three-quarters of a century ago, the needle-sized fibers were used in all sorts of household items including clothing, coffee pots, toys, and even play-doh. It wasn’t until the 60’s and 70’s that scientists started linking certain cancers and diseases to this super mineral.
Over the past several decades, as science has proven how toxic and dangerous Asbestos is, many mines have shut down and many countries have stopped using the product. However, due to the fact that Asbestos is a huge industry for Canada, it has been difficult for the country to shut down the industry. In fact, just recently, a $58 million loan was granted to help re-open an Asbestos mine that has been closed for a few years. During this time, other countries have been putting pressure on Canada to make some changes regarding the mining and export of Asbestos, including allowing the Rotterdam Convention to list the mineral as a hazardous substance. Canada has continued to veto placing Asbestos on this list. However, just recently, Canada announced that it would no longer veto placing Asbestos on the hazardous substance list. An announcement was also made stating that the towns that would be affected by the decrease in Asbestos export would be supported, and $50 million would be spent to help these towns diversify.
Both the Canadian Cancer Society and the Quebec Medical Association denounce the reopening of the mine, and agree with the decision to put Asbestos on the hazardous materials list. The World Health Organization confirms that over 100,000 people die of Asbestos related diseases each year. Mesothelioma, a cancer caused solely by Asbestos exposure, is known to take thousands of lives worldwide each year. Thousands of new cases of Mesothelioma are diagnosed each year, and the average lifespan following diagnosis is 12 to 18 months. Thus, Canada’s agreement to let the Rotterdam Convention place Asbestos on the hazardous materials list is a huge step in the right direction for advocates of removing Asbestos from use globally.