Further Support for Asbestos Bans 

by Laurie Kazan-Allen



Developments in the Americas and Asia last month evidenced increasing opposition by civil society to the continued use of asbestos. On June 9, 2010 Ministers from Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay, Uruguay, Venezuela, Bolivia, Chile, Ecuador and Peru, signed the “Declaration on Asbestos of the XXVIII Meeting of Health Ministers of the State Parties and Associated States of Mercosur,” the Southern Common Market. The Declaration (see Spanish text and English translation) upholds conclusions reached by the International Labor Organization and the World Health Organization on the carcinogenicity of all types of asbestos, the harmful effects of hazardous exposures on members of the public as well as workers, and the ongoing risk of installed contaminated products. Recognizing the “serious public health problem,” caused by asbestos, the Declaration calls for “the prohibition of the import, mining production and trade of asbestos and products containing asbestos, in those countries of MERCOSUR and the Associate States which have not yet enacted this prohibition.”1

Two days after this Declaration was signed in Buenos Aires, Argentina, a seminar on asbestos was held in Almaty, the capital of Kazakhstan, by Women in Europe for a Common Future (WECF), a non-governmental organization, in collaboration with their Kazakh partners: Network of Ecological Organizations and the Analytical Ecological Agency “Greenwomen.” The June 11 session was part of a two-year European Union-funded project begun in 2009. The objectives of this initiative are to:

  • increase public awareness of the health hazards of asbestos and persistent organic pollutants;
  • generate public and political support for the implementation of measures to restrict their use, decontaminate polluted sites and safely dispose of toxic waste.

Representatives of the NGO organizations backing this event highlighted the fact that “the EECCA region (Eastern Europe, Caucasus and Central Asia) is one of the largest manufacturers of asbestos in the world and also widely uses asbestos for various needs.” A WECF speaker told delegates at this session that a laboratory analysis of chrysotile asbestos samples obtained in Kazakhstan and the Ukraine and Romania confirmed they were carcinogenic.

On June 29, the Canadian Cancer Society (CCS) confirmed its disapproval of Quebec's proposed involvement with plans to develop new asbestos mining facilities. “Granting a loan guarantee to the (chrysotile asbestos) mine will,” CCS President Peter Goodhand wrote “help spread the global epidemic of asbestos-related cancers and damage Canada's reputation as a global leader in public health.”2 In a letter sent to Quebec Premier Jean Charest, Goodhand and Jimm Simon, CCS Chair and co-author, added:

“All forms of asbestos, including chrysotile asbestos mined in Quebec, cause cancer… Canada's own tragedy of disease arising from a asbestos use is now being repeated in parts of Asia, Africa and Latin America, where workplace safety practices are lax or non-existent.”

Taken on their own, these developments could be regarded as discrete incidents of small import. However, when considered alongside the anti-asbestos demonstrations held on Quebec's “national day” (June 24), the protests which took place on Canada Day (July 1) and the avalanche of critical letters being sent to Canadian federal and provincial authorities from around the world, there can be little doubt that Canada's enslavement to its asbestos lobby is adversely affecting both its global standing and national reputation.

July 5, 2010


1 Estimates put the population of the 4 MERCOSUR member states, Brazil, Argentina, Paraguay and Uruguay, at 242+ million. Associate members include: Bolivia, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador and Peru.

2 Press Release: Canadian Cancer Society Urges Quebec Premier Not to Provide Loan Guarantee to Asbestos Mine. Canadian Cancer Society. June 29, 2010.



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