Laurie Kazan-Allen

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August 15, 2017

A Post-Asbestos World?

Significant events this Summer portend new beginnings for economies formerly reliant on deadly asbestos mining and processing. On July 12, the Government of Canada – the largest asbestos producer throughout most of the 20th century – lowered the acceptable level of occupational asbestos exposure to as close to zero as practicable as part of the federal government’s strategy to ban all asbestos and asbestos-containing products by 2018.1 In Brazil, currently the world’s 3rd largest supplier of asbestos fiber, long-awaited Supreme Court proceedings on the unconstitutionality of the federal policy allowing the commercial exploitation of asbestos were curtailed on August 10; the Court will reconvene on August 17 but as award-winning journalist Eliane Brum wrote in a recent commentary: “At this time, even the stones know that asbestos will end up being banned in Brazil.”2

Even in Russia, which currently supplies more than 50% of asbestos consumed around the world every year, there are glimmers of hope. On August 8, 2017 Evgeny Kuyvashev, the head of Russia’s Sverdlovsk region, visited the monotown of Asbest (Russian: Асбе́ст), a city built on the mining and processing of chrysotile (white) asbestos.3 At a meeting in the municipality, Kuyvashev pledged his support for the diversification of the local economy; during the first half of 2017, he said, 300 new jobs had been created outside of the asbestos industry. Eight hundred and fifty million roubles have been invested to help the city develop new industries and employment opportunities for local people.

The experience of another mining town, also called Asbestos, is of relevance to developments in Asbest.4 For generations, asbestos mining also provided the lifeblood of this Quebec town; in the aftermath of the announcement in December 2016 by the Canadian government of national asbestos prohibitions, this town is, like its Russian counterpart, facing the need to reinvent itself; financial resources from the Quebec and Ottawa governments have been promised to help it do so. Paraphrasing journalist Eliane Brum: “even the stones know that asbestos will end up being banned”; whether or not Russia chooses to act on this public health hazard, countries like Vietnam, Thailand, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia and Cambodia are likely to phase out asbestos use. With key markets disappearing and consumer demand falling, this industry of mass destruction will, in the not too distant future, be consigned to the history books. Asbest, Russia and Asbestos, Canada need to embrace the future – one which has no place for the mining, processing, sale and use of asbestos – and develop healthy and sustainable economic alternatives for their citizens.

1 Federal government lowers limit of exposure to airborne chrysotile asbestos. July 17, 2017.

2 Brum E. El Supremo y la farsa del Amianto [The Supreme Court and the Asbestos Farce]. August 9, 2017.

3 Куйвашев поручил властям Асбеста подготовить комплексную стратегию развития города [Kuyvashev instructed the Asbest authorities to prepare a comprehensive city development strategy]. August 9, 2017.

4 Asbestos, Que., is a town left pondering its name in wake of planned ban. December 16, 2016.

August 1, 2017

Brazil: The Final Countdown?

On August 10, 2017 Brazil’s Supreme Court will consider long-pending litigation regarding the illegality of the asbestos trade throughout Brazil – the world’s third largest asbestos producer. At stake are the validity of asbestos bans in the states of São Paulo, Pernambuco, Rio Grande do Sul and Rio de Janeiro as well as the unconstitutionality of the federal government’s policy which allows the commercial exploitation of a carcinogenic substance shunned by almost 90% of countries.

Five years ago, asbestos hearings by the Supreme Court provided the opportunity for the submission of evidence from independent asbestos experts as well as industry spokespersons regarding the occupational and public health hazard posed by asbestos.1 Unfortunately, despite the excellence of the scientific and medical testimonies supporting an end to the economic injustices and environmental racism caused by asbestos, no verdict was forthcoming.

The buzz picked up from on-the-ground experts, media platforms and the blogosphere indicate that substantial progress has been made in mobilizing support for an end to asbestos use in Brazil during the intervening years.2 In fact, as of now there are few companies that would be affected if a ban was to be implemented as almost all former asbestos consuming companies have transitioned or pledged to transition to safer technologies. All, that is, except for Eternit, the owner of the Cana Brava asbestos mine in Minaçu. In the face of desertions by former allies and decreasing consumer demand for toxic products, Eternit continues to exert pressure on powerful politicians and government decision makers to maintain a status quo which permits asbestos use to continue.

That Eternit is fighting a losing battle can be seen from the website of the Brazilian Chrysotile Institute (Instituto de Crisotila do Brasil), a national asbestos trade association supported by Eternit. In 2014, this body – attempting to dissociate itself from the toxic connotations of chrysotile asbestos – rebranded itself as the IBC, a neutral acronym with no negative connotations. Nowadays, the IBC website is a mere shadow of its former self with the latest press release and feature being more than five months old.

Eternit has lost the battle and it only remains for the Brazilian Supreme Court to nail the lid onto the coffin of the country’s asbestos industry. The Brazilian constitution guarantees citizens the right to life and the dignity of labor, unachievable goals as long as asbestos use continues. After decades of asbestos mining, processing, manufacturing, exporting and use, let’s hope that August 10 will be the beginning of a new era for Brazil. The struggle continues!

1 Kazan-Allen L. A Perfect Day! September 3, 2012.

2 Só duas fábricas ainda mantêm o amianto no Brasil. July 30, 2017.
Also see: A OMS alerta: amianto causa câncer. July 27, 2017.

July 10, 2017

The Global Coalition for Asbestos Justice

For decades, powerful and wealthy asbestos vested interests abused workers, betrayed consumers, lied to governments, suppressed evidence and attacked critics. Even now, individuals representing the asbestos lobby are attempting to derail plans by Ukraine’s Ministry of Health to ban asbestos in order to protect the public from deadly asbestos exposures.1 The industry is fighting a hopeless battle; everyone knows there is no place for asbestos in the 21st century. Even Canada, formerly the world’s largest asbestos supplier, has announced it will ban its use by the end of next year!

Last month (June 2017), the World Health Organization released Asbestos Fact Sheet 4 at the 6th Ministerial Conference on Environment and Health in Ostrava, Czech Republic. The four-page text was categorical in its rejection of asbestos industry propaganda and made a cogent case for banning all forms of asbestos not only to save life but also to save money! “There are,” the fact sheet concluded “substantial and increasing costs associated with the continuing production and use of asbestos. The long-term negative effects far outweigh any short-term economic benefits. Substantial health costs, long-term remediation and additional litigation costs (see Fig. 2) further reinforce banning all uses and the production of asbestos as early as possible in favour of sustainable and healthy economic development.”2

The increasing cross-border collaboration of campaigners for global asbestos justice has exposed the amoral as well as illegal machinations of those willing to endanger human life in order to protect asbestos profits. In March 2017, asbestos victims’ representatives from France, Spain, Italy, and the UK journeyed to Belgium to support the family of mesothelioma victim Francoise Jonckheere as they awaited the court verdict in the first asbestos case in Belgium!3 A few weeks later, Indonesian and Indian asbestosis victims told a United Nations meeting in Geneva about the deadly impact of asbestos diseases4 and one month later (on June 23, 2017), a United Nations rapporteur received evidence documenting the asbestos industry’s abuse of human rights from legendary ban asbestos campaigner Brazilian engineer Fernanda Giannasi.5

From July 5 to July 7, a 20-strong delegation of asbestos victims, family members and campaigners took part in activities in UK cities decimated by asbestos-related diseases as part of Action Mesothelioma Day. Their participation was warmly received and their solidarity with UK victims was made manifest by banners they displayed, their interactions with grassroots activists and speeches they made.


Asbestos Seminar, Manchester. July 5, 2017


Action Mesothelioma Day July 7, 2017. Derby.


Action Mesothelioma Day July 7, 2017. Birmingham.


Action Mesothelioma Day July 7, 2017. Sheffield.


Action Mesothelioma Day July 7, 2017. Liverpool.

The international ban asbestos coalition is stronger than ever with joint initiatives being progressed on a wide range of subjects including the identification of asbestos victims, the remediation of contaminated buildings, such as schools, and the decontamination of toxic landfill and dump sites. Through our grassroots network, queries about asbestos contamination of the built environment in Greece and Morocco are being answered by EU experts while the mobilization of support for asbestos bans in Southeast Asia is being reinforced by regional specialists able to provide strategic advice and practical guidance.

It is well known that people working for the asbestos industry are avid readers of this website. So, here is a message from us to them: it is time to accept that you have lost the asbestos war. A negotiated end to the havoc you have wreaked on innocent men, women and children is the only way forward. Shut-down the asbestos mines and let us work together to maximize support for the injured, achieve decontamination of our countries and make restitution for the damage you have done.

1 Kazan-Allen L. Ukraine Bans Asbestos! July 8, 2017.

2 Asbestos policies of Major International Agencies. Updated June 22, 2017.

3 Kazan-Allen L. Asbestos Victory in Belgium! March 30, 2017.

4 Kazan-Allen L. Asbestos Showdown in Geneva. May 10, 2017.

5 Asbestos and Human Rights. June 19, 2017

June 13, 2017

Banning Asbestos: Saves Money and Lives!

Today, June 13, 2017, the World Health Organization released the English version of its Asbestos Fact Sheet 4 at the 6th Ministerial Conference on Environment and Health (E&H) in Ostrava, Czech Republic; a Russian version is due out shortly with other translations to follow. The choice of venue to launch this new resource was appropriate as the focus of the three-day E&H event is to “to take action to address the 1.4 million annual deaths from polluted environments” in Europe.1 While the 28 member countries of the European Union have banned asbestos, others like Russia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Ukraine and Belarus have not. In fact, asbestos production in Russia and Kazakhstan accounts for 60+% of annual global output.

To maximize the impact of the new fact sheet, a side event entitled: Advancing the elimination of asbestos-related diseases is being held tomorrow (June 14) within the framework of the E&H conference to compare and contrast national strategies for eliminating asbestos-related diseases, reducing environmental and occupational asbestos exposures, assessing the costs and benefits of the continued use of asbestos and learning about up-to-date technologies for the disposal of toxic waste and the remediation of contaminated buildings and land.2 As the languages of this event are English and Russian it is not too much of a stretch to suppose that the delegates will include asbestos industry apologists from Eastern Europe who continue to toe the industry line that asbestos can be used safely under controlled conditions. Amongst the findings in the new WHO text which they will find the most objectionable are the following:

  • “There is no evidence for a safe threshold for the carcinogenic effect of asbestos. As increased cancer risks have been observed in populations exposed to a very low level, the most efficient way to eliminate asbestos-related diseases it to stop using all forms of asbestos.”
  • “All forms of asbestos, including chrysotile, are carcinogenic to humans.”
  • “About 70% of workers do not have any insurance to compensate them in case of occupational diseases and injuries.”
  • “There are no observable mid- or long-term negative economic impacts from bans or a decline in asbestos production or consumption at the country levels, nor observable persistent negative effects at the regional level.”

The four-page fact sheet makes the long-term costs to society of asbestos consumption crystal clear. The only ones who profit from the use of asbestos are the mine owners and asbestos entrepreneurs. Their profits are obtained at a horrific cost to workers and citizens who pay the bill for the ill health, premature deaths and remediation of structural and environmental contamination as explained in the final recommendation:

“There are substantial and increasing costs associated with the continuing production and use of asbestos. The long-term negative effects far outweigh any short-term economic benefits. Substantial health costs, long-term remediation and additional litigation costs (see Fig. 2) further reinforce banning all uses and the production of asbestos as early as possible in favour of sustainable and healthy economic development.”3

Amen to that!

1 Sixth Ministerial Conference on Environment and Health.

2 Advancing the elimination of asbestos-related diseases.

3 World Health Organization: Elimination of Asbestos-Related Diseases, June 13, 2017.

February 27, 2017

The Asbestos End Game

For over a hundred years the mining and use of asbestos was a profitable and powerful industry. Throughout most of that time, there were critics who pointed out the deadly price paid by human beings and the environment for asbestos dividends. With dwindling markets, stricter regulations and adverse developments on almost a daily basis, it is clear that this industry has now entered the end game, the outcome of which is inevitable: a shutdown of production, consumption and sale of the only type of asbestos still being used: chrysotile (white) asbestos.

Opposing the International Chrysotile Association and other asbestos lobbying groups from stakeholder countries such as Russia, Kazakhstan, Brazil, India etc. is a virtual, grassroots ban asbestos campaign that knows no borders or paymasters. Developments which took place last week in Asia, Latin America, North America and Europe have been achieved as a result of decades of grassroots mobilization, consensus building and international collaborations by asbestos victims’ groups, trade unions, labor federations, campaigning bodies, non-governmental organizations and other partners.

On Tuesday, February 21, 2017 it was reported that the government of South Korea was tightening asbestos regulations to limit toxic exposures in schools. Two days later, a report was issued by the UK revealing that schools attended by one million children were not “fully compliant” with mandatory asbestos management procedures. The outcry by parents, trade unions and the media regarding the occurrence of asbestos exposures was understandable with headlines such as: Asbestos in schools is a ‘serious’ problem, Government report finds; and Teachers at risk of asbestos exposure in one in five schools.1

The industrial and municipal legacy of asbestos continues to create a daily hazard wherever asbestos has been used. On February 22, a Parliamentary Committee of Andalusia, Spain announced plans for an audit of pipework used to deliver regional water supplies with a view to eliminating the asbestos hazard from the network. On February 23, a National Asbestos Profile working group was launched in Phnom Penh by officials from Cambodia’s Ministry of Labor and Vocational Training to devise a strategy for protecting public and occupational health from the asbestos hazard. The same day a press release was issued by a politician in Ontario, Canada announcing the second reading in Ontario’s Legislative Assembly of the Asbestos Use Prohibition Act, the latest signpost on Canada’s road to transitioning from an asbestos producing to an asbestos ban country.

Under the “polluter pays” principle those who create toxic conditions and fail to prevent hazardous exposures should be held accountable for their crimes. On February 24, news was received from Spain of a landmark victory for the family of a worker who died from mesothelioma having been negligently exposed to asbestos by the municipality he worked for. The same day, we heard that the Public Ministry of Labor in Paraná, Brazil had filed a multimillion reals public civil action against Brazil’s Eternit asbestos company for occupational asbestos exposures at the company’s factory in the city of Colombo.

What is crystal clear from the events described above is that the lies told by advocates of asbestos use have been exposed not only in the public arena but also in courts and legislative assemblies and that those who profit from the trade in this class 1 carcinogen are being held accountable. It is well past the time that the asbestos industry woke up to reality – there is no place in the 21st century for this industry.

1 Turner C. Asbestos in schools is a ‘serious’ problem, Government report finds. February 24, 2017.
Owen T. Teachers at risk of asbestos exposure in one in five schools. February 23, 2017.

February 9, 2017

Update: Ban Asbestos Campaign 2017

Today (February 9, 2017), the funeral was held of fifty-five year old Ffloyd Laurie, whose death from mesothelioma last month has sent shock waves throughout the Australian state of New South Wales (NSW).1 Mr. Laurie had no occupational contact with asbestos, exposure to which can cause mesothelioma; however, as a child he grew up in the town where Australia’s “Killer Company” James Hardie operated the Baryulgil asbestos mine. It was there that he, just like scores of his school friends, inhaled deadly fibers from asbestos tailings spread around the town and from airborne dust generated by mining operations. The death of Mr. Laurie is the first confirmed environmental fatality from the mine and the fear is widespread amongst local people as well as experts that his death could be the first of many from environmental exposure.

In 2017, there will be hundreds of thousands more asbestos deaths. Local authorities, national governments, regional bodies and international agencies remain blinkered in their response to a global public health emergency. In the UK, the clarion call of teachers, unions and campaigning groups for the government to address the widespread contamination of the educational infrastructure goes unanswered. In Spain, the Supreme Court this week ruled that a technicality had invalidated compensation awards paid out to injured workers and in Italy funds earmarked for asbestos remediation work in Sicily have now been reallocated due to the failure by municipalities to conduct mandatory asbestos audits. Inadequate and dismal responses to the asbestos hazard by those tasked with protecting public and occupational health ensure that deadly exposures will continue.

Knowing that the official opposition to asbestos is, in many places, so feeble is a strong incentive for industry lobbyists from Russia, Kazakhstan and elsewhere to ratchet up asbestos marketing efforts to industrializing countries. What they have not reckoned on, however, is the outpouring of support for and the strength of the grassroots campaign to ban asbestos. Every victim, every relative and every community member who has witnessed the effects of asbestos on the human body is a member of this virtual global movement. From the Australian town of Baryulgil, to the contaminated Getafe neighbourhood of Madrid and the toxic Italian hills of Sicily, the world is calling out for an asbestos-free future!

1 Farrow-Smith E, Marciniak C. Mourners farewell mesothelioma victim Ffloyd Laurie who played in asbestos-ridden schoolyard. February 9, 2017.

January 2, 2017

New Year Reflections 2017

The global campaign for asbestos justice made significant progress in 2016. The fact that Canada, formerly the world’s largest supplier of chrysotile asbestos, turned its back on asbestos continues to reverberate worldwide and will do so for years to come. In a press release issued on December 15, global ban asbestos campaigners called this development “historic,” with Brazilian activist Fernanda Giannasi saying: “If Canada can ban asbestos, so can we!”

My personal highlights of the year included events both big and small, all of which raised asbestos awareness, provided support for the injured and progressed initiatives to achieve justice for the victims. They included:

  • An Asbestos Awareness Workshop for schoolchildren and teachers on South Africa’s Youth Day (June 16), in the former asbestos mining town of Prieska, South Africa;1
  • Asbestosis diagnosis camps organized by the Bangladesh OSHE Foundation for shipbreaking workers in Shitakunda, Chittagong;
  • Action Mesothelioma Day events held throughout the UK on July 1;2
  • Increasing mobilization on asbestos by the Center for Public Health and Environmental Development, Nepal;3
  • The opening of a public park on the site of the infamous asbestos-cement factory in Casale Monferrato, Italy;4
  • Events held in Brazil in October which provided the opportunity for asbestos victims and their supporters to highlight the continuing injustices in the world’s third biggest asbestos-producing country;5
  • The Southeast Ban Asbestos (SEA-BAN) conference held in Jakarta. Indonesia in November;6
  • Ban asbestos demonstrations outside the Russian and Chinese embassies in Seoul, Korea in December;

The challenges facing us in 2017 should not be underestimated. The asbestos lobby remains determined to squash civil society activists, delude national governments and suppress international agencies’ efforts to shut down this industry of mass destruction.

Their resolve can be ascertained by the million dollar operation mounted to infiltrate our network.7 They will not succeed in silencing us – we are many in number and we are strong in our commitment to end the asbestos slaughter. The future is asbestos-free!

1 Kotoloane P. Schools Asbestos Awareness Workshop. June 2016.

2 Kazan-Allen L. Action Mesothelioma Day 2016. July 6, 2016.

3 Ram Charitra Sah. Implementing Nepal’s Asbestos Ban. May 25, 2016.

4 Kazan-Allen L. EterNOT not Eternit! September 19, 2016.

5 Kazan-Allen L. Brazilians United in Ban Asbestos Struggle. October 2016.

6 Kriz J. Asbestos — not here, not anywhere. November 18, 2016.

7 Corbain I. Corporate spy infiltrated anti-asbestos campaign, court told. December 8, 2016.

October 14, 2016

Asbestos Victims in the Ascendance

As thousands of French citizens took to the streets in Paris to highlight the country’s ongoing asbestos scandal on October 7, 2016,1 6,000 miles away Brazilian citizens participated in a series of seminal meetings between October 5-8, 2016 to progress the national campaign for an asbestos ban and justice for the injured. The European protest highlighted the French Government’s failure to issue criminal sanctions against those guilty of operating and promoting an industry responsible for at least 50,000 deaths with future mortality estimated at 100,000 by 2050.


Although France banned asbestos in 1999, no one has been held to account for the damage which has been done to workers or members of the public. Brazilian efforts to ban asbestos have been bogged down in the Supreme Court where legal actions against the constitutionality of an asbestos policy based on industry’s “controlled use” propaganda remain unresolved. Even as victims remain hopeful that the highest court in the land will uphold their rights to a life free of asbestos, labor prosecutors are pursuing a variety of routes to reduce asbestos usage including formal agreements with companies to transition to asbestos-free technologies and lawsuits against asbestos manufacturers flouting health and safety laws.

Personal injury lawyers have mounted civil lawsuits for claimants suffering from asbestos-related conditions including pleural plaques against negligent employers with a landmark victory only recently being achieved in the case of Yura Zoudine, a former Eternit engineer who died of mesothelioma on December 8, 2005. This was the first individual claim in Brazil to be resolved with substantial damages being paid to the widow and family. Speaking on October 8, 2016 to a gathering of asbestos victims – members of Brazil’s association of the asbestos-exposed (ABREA) – Yura’s widow Renata said the legal battle had been a fight for justice. Describing the deplorable treatment Yura had received from the company as well as its doctors, she paid tribute to ABREA members and organizers who had helped the family throughout the protracted proceedings in the lower, appellate and supreme, upper and superior labour courts.


ABREA Leaders October 8, 2016 Campinas, Brazil.

In France, Brazil and around the world, the voices of asbestos victims are now being heard at the highest levels. The silent asbestos epidemic is silent no more. As Brazilian ban asbestos activists say: “A luta continue!” [The struggle continues!]

1 ANDEVA Press Release. National Demonstration of Asbestos Victims. October 7, 2016

September 10, 2016

British Parliament “Riddled” with Asbestos

A report released on Thursday September 8, 2016 by The Joint Committee on the Palace of Westminster documented the dilapidated and dangerous state of the Houses of Parliament and highlighted the imminent hazard posed by “asbestos… present throughout” the Parliamentary Estate.1 According to the report:

“One of the biggest problems affecting the repair and maintenance of the Palace is the existence of asbestos throughout the building… [asbestos] was used extensively in the Palace, particularly during the post-war rebuilding period. It is now found in many areas, such as lagging and gaskets of pipework and ductwork, within insulation boards and fire linings, even within some paint. Where asbestos cannot be practically removed it is securely encased and regularly tested and inspected.”2

Specific statements in the report provide serious grounds for concern regarding the ubiquity and condition of asbestos-containing materials present:

  • “The Palace of Westminster is riddled with asbestos.”
  • “asbestos is believed to be present in almost every riser … as well as in many plant rooms, corridors and under-floor voids.”
  • “The presence of asbestos in the Palace… impedes not only the remedial works themselves, but the preparatory investigation and survey work which is necessary to establish the current state of the assets.”3

To be honest, it would have been surprising if asbestos-containing products had not found their way into Parliament. During the 20th century, over 7 million tonnes of asbestos had been imported. As asbestos was generally used in conjunction with other substances – such as cement to make asbestos-cement building materials – this means that tens of millions of tonnes of toxic products were incorporated into the national infrastructure at a time when the properties of the “magic mineral” were highly prized.

There are, of course, multiple systemic and structural problems with this iconic UNESCO World Heritage Site, some parts of which are more than a thousand years old. The preferred option of The Joint Committee which, it seems, has the support of the Prime Minister is a £4bn restoration plan that would require the relocation of MPs and Peers for six years in order for work to be carried out. Failure to act in a timely manner could, the Committee warned, lead to a “crisis” or “catastrophic event” at the Palace of Westminster.

Accepting that the health of Parliamentarians, support staff, workers and members of the public must be protected from dangerous exposures at Westminster, it is worth pointing out, especially at this time of year when children are returning to schools, that more than 75% of Britain’s state schools are contaminated with asbestos.4 Successive governments have refused to engage with this fact, leaving children and schoolteachers at imminent risk of deadly exposures. If, as one newspaper headline screamed, “Asbestos in Parliament ‘could poison MPs’,” the question must be asked: how safe are our children? No doubt $4bn will be found to fix the Palace of Westminster but what about the financial resources needed to decontaminate tens of thousands of toxic schools? As the new PM considers the options for Parliament, perhaps she might give some thought to a new infrastructure tax to pay for the refurbishment and remediation of schools and public buildings. She did, after all, promise to make Britain “a country that works for everyone.” Why not, start here?

1 MPs to move out of 'asbestos-riddled' Parliament in £4bn restoration plan. September 8, 2016.

2 Joint Committee on the Palace of Westminster. Condition of the Palace of Westminster. September 8, 2016.

3 Extract from above report.

4 All Party Parliamentary Group on Occupational Health and Safety. Asbestos in Schools – The Need for Action. 2012.

September 2, 2016

Canada’s Asbestos Free Future?

To mark Labour Day 2016 (September 1), the Canadian Labour Congress (CLC) issued a statement in which it called for a comprehensive and immediate federal ban on asbestos:

“From construction materials to brake pads, asbestos-laden materials are still in daily use. Imports of asbestos into Canada are also on the rise. Buildings – hospitals, warehouses, rinks, community centres – contaminated with asbestos remain unregistered, keeping the people who use them and work in them at risk. Today, more than 2,000 Canadians die every year from asbestos-related disease. It is the leading cause of workplace-related death and it costs our health care system $1.7 billion a year.

Winning a comprehensive ban will save lives and prevent the pain, suffering and heartache endured by too many today. Canada’s unions have been working with employers and governments for 40 years to protect people from this killer. We’re working with the new federal government to get the job done.”1

The figures speak for themselves. This summer the first analysis of the impact of Canadian asbestos-related diseases revealed that the financial costs associated with 427 cases of mesothelioma – the signature cancer associated with asbestos exposure – and 1,904 cases of lung cancers diagnosed in 2011 were a staggering $1.9bn.2

For decades, federal, provincial and municipal governments had a firm policy of “don’t look, don’t see.” When Quebec epidemiologists dared to publish statistics revealing high incidences of asbestos cancer in mining regions,3 they were denounced by representatives of the then powerful asbestos industry. Even now residents of Asbestos, Quebec, home of the defunct Jeffrey chrysotile asbestos mine, are in denial about the hazards posed by asbestos mining. While retired geologist Francesco Spertini, who worked at the mine for 32 years, agreed that all mining operations can be dangerous, he told a journalist last month that:

“All mining activity creates dust, which, once you inhale it, causes emphysema at a minimum …. If you don't saw into it, if you take the necessary precautions to control the dust, you can control the risks.”4

Plans to diversify the economy of Quebec’s former asbestos mining communities are being fuelled by federal funding. While the creation of new jobs by companies lured into the area by fiscal incentives5 is most certainly to be welcomed, the wisdom of developing the former site of the “King Mine” at Thetford Mines, Quebec into a new tourist attraction is questionable in the absence of massive efforts to decontaminate the environmental contamination caused by decades of asbestos mining.6 In the absence of data documenting that the air in Thetford Mines and Asbestos and other former asbestos mining towns is safe to breath, plans to “offer visitors the opportunity to discover the region's rich mining heritage” at a new history centre in Thetford Mines that includes “a major one-of-a-kind tourist facility: an animated mine park housing several pavilions and interpretation stations as well as a public market” are, to say the least, ill-advised.

1 Labour Day: A message from the Canadian Labour Congress. August 31, 2016.

2 Toronto Institute for Work & Health. New cases of mesothelioma and asbestos-related lung cancer in one year cost $1.9B. Summer, 2016.

3 Breaking Canada's Asbestos Addiction. April 20, 2008.

4 Lowrie M. Five years after mine closure, Asbestos, Que., seeking new identity. August 25, 2016.

5 Canadian Initiative for the Economic Diversification of Communities Reliant on Chrysotile.

6 Government of Canada hails inauguration of Centre historique de la mine King (KB3). August 17, 2016.

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