The use of asbestos and all products containing the mineral may soon become illegal in Canada if the Canadian government makes good its intention to ban the mineral. Prime Minister Trudeau’s administration argues that the ban is in the interest of public health and the environment, the two things that resonate well with Canadian citizens. Scientific evidence, however, affirms that not all types of asbestos are harmful, something that the proposed ban overlooked. That aside, if indeed asbestos is a dangerous substance, it should be banned in totality. The government, however, has many exceptions in place pertaining to the use of asbestos, raising pertinent questions regarding the effectiveness of the ban. Meanwhile, the somewhat controversial proposal is open until March 22, 2017, for citizens to give their remarks.
Is the Ban Scientifically Justified?
The narrative that all types of asbestos are the same and equally toxic is false, and it has no scientific bearing. It seems that the government is classifying all forms of asbestos as Amphibole asbestos—the harmful class of the mineral—which have been banned for decades, yet there are many types of the mineral.
Chrysotile (otherwise known as “white”) asbestos, for instance, is currently widely used in Canada, and scientists have confirmed that it is safe as long it is appropriately handled. The unique properties of white asbestos make the mineral suitable for varied applications without posing a danger to either the environment or human health. It is, therefore, untenable to ban white asbestos.
Why the Many Exceptions to the Ban?
The proposed ban allows mining companies to be in possession of residues—leftover matter containing either Amphibole asbestos or Chrysotile asbestos. As if that were not enough, importers of chlorine or sodium containing asbestos will remain unaffected by the ban until 2025. One can deduce from the mentioned exceptions that Canadian government acknowledges that not all types of asbestos are harmful.
The import and use of asbestos for museum products is also exempted from the proposed ban. The ban, in essence, fails to consider hundreds of Canadians who will lose their jobs but takes into account art. This has not escaped critics who believe Trudeau is playing “image politics,” which seem sensible until one is drawn into details only to realize glaring hollowness.
If the proposed ban sails through, hundreds will lose jobs and industries heavily dependent on white asbestos—currently in possession of vast inventories of the mineral—will have to close down. One can only imagine the repercussions that the ban of white asbestos will have on the Canadian economy. The bottom line is that the planned ban on white asbestos is not only scientifically unsound but also detrimental to the Canadian economy.