A Guest Post by Eric Stevenson
Canada has often been viewed as one of the kindest, most peaceable nations of the modern world. But with the news of the intentions of Canada regarding the toxic mining and exporting of asbestos, opinions on Canadian morals are rapidly changing.
Canada has been mining chrysotile, a mineral also known as white asbestos, for decades. In fact, entire towns, such as Asbestos, Quebec, have been built around the prosperity of the asbestos mining industry. Asbestos mines have been collecting and selling the toxic mineral for years for a number of reasons.
Asbestos is relatively inexpensive and profit is considerable. Factories and mines provide jobs for the townspeople and pump life into the towns. Asbestos is also well-known for its fire and heat resistant qualities and its tendency not to rust or decay naturally.
However since the 1970’s, many countries, including the United states and several European nations, have banned the usage of asbestos in homes, public buildings, and schools because of the danger the toxin poses to their citizens.
Asbestos in building materials like drywall and insulation is perfectly safe when it is kept structurally undamaged and intact. However, when asbestos is disturbed, it releases invisible fibers into the air. Mine and factory workers then inhale and ingest the fibers. Fibers also cling to hair and clothing, and thus are transported and inhaled by family members and neighbors. Those living in homes or frequenting buildings that contain asbestos products are also exposed to the fibers.
Inhaling and ingesting asbestos fibers leads to a deadly cancer called mesothelioma. Mesothelioma symptoms are subtle and lie dormant for up to 50 years after the workers and families inhale the asbestos. When the cancer does become symptomatic, it has often already metastasized, making treatment ineffective. Therefore, mesothelioma life expectancy rates are extremely short.
Even Canada has banned the usage of asbestos in its own country because of the negative health effects it can have on its citizens. Yet Canada has recently set out to reopen abandoned asbestos mines. Canada intends to allow the export of asbestos and asbestos contaminated products to countries that do not yet have major bans on asbestos usage.
The Jeffrey Mine in Asbestos, Quebec is the largest asbestos mine in the world and from this Canadian region has come 90% of the world’s commercially used asbestos for over a century. The Jeffrey Mine’s team of geologists believes that they have discovered the world largest reserve of asbestos and investors fully intend to ship immense quantities of asbestos to countries like India, Cambodia, the Philippines, and Nepal, where, they claim, people are less equipped with knowledge of the dangers of asbestos.
According to statistics by the World Health Organization, over 107,000 people die every year from diseases caused by asbestos. The carcinogen has helped the Canadian industry group, the Chrysotile Institute, to gain at least one million dollars for asbestos propaganda and promotion.
However, many citizens of Canada do not condone what the asbestos industry claims to do. Statistics presented by the Canadian Association of Physicians for the Environment showed that 76% found Canada’s asbestos export plans unacceptable. Yet, without more oppoistion, it seems as though the Jeffrey Mine project may be successful.
By raising awareness of the dangers of asbestos and symptoms of mesothelioma, we can help to bring other countries closer to placing their own bans on asbestos. It is up to us to spread information that can save lives and put a stop to greed and the ill-intentions of those whose goal is to profit despite the risk to others.