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Geneva, 3rd December 2010
CANADA –STOP EXPORTING CHRYSOTILE TO ASIA
The Quebec government is preparing to give a loan guarantee of $58 million to rescue the asbestos industry and allow the opening of the new Jeffrey underground mine. The Jeffrey Mine Inc. plans to export 200,000 tonnes of asbestos a year from the new underground mine to developing countries for the next 25 to 50 years.
The BWI believes that the governments of Canada and Quebec must take responsibility for the damage that the continued production and export of chrysotile will do to workers’ health in Asia . We urge the government of Quebec not to invest the $58 million in the Jeffrey mine, and instead to invest in a programme of just transition for the affected communities to provide them with safe, healthy, sustainable employment.
Asbestos is one of the most hazardous substances that is still being sold for industrial use. Exposure to asbestos is stated by the International Labour Organization (ILO) to be the single largest cause of occupational cancers in the world, killing more than 100,000 people every year, according to ILO research. The World Health Organization estimates that 125 million people in the world are exposed to asbestos at the workplace, and that 107,000 people die each year from asbestos diseases.
Promoting Deadly Misinformation
A large proportion of these deaths will be attributed to the mines of Quebec in Canada. Quebec stubbornly continues not only to export but also to promote the use of asbestos in developing countries, including India, Thailand, Vietnam and Indonesia, through the asbestos industry propagandists at the Quebec based Chrysotile Institute. The asbestos industry falsely claims that chrysotile is safe and that chrysotile is being used within safe limits of exposure. The marketing tactics of the chrysotile industry are very similar to those of the tobacco industry, targeting developing countries and using “doubt science” to mislead policy makers and consumers.
By contrast, the international scientific community and international organizations have no doubts regarding the deadly consequences of using asbestos. The International Agency for the Research of Cancer (IARC), the World Health Organization, the International Labour Organization, the International Social Security Association as well as the Canadian Medical Association, the Canadian Cancer Society and the Canadian Public Health Association all classify chrysotile asbestos as a potent human carcinogen and have determined that there is no safe threshold of exposure to it. All of these organisations are calling for an end to the use of chrysotile as the first step in a programme to eliminate asbestos related diseases world- wide.
A deadly and unethical export
The industrialised countries of the world which, in the recent past, made heavy use of chrysotile asbestos in the built environment, are now in the midst of an asbestos disease epidemic. In Asia, it is inevitable that a similar, preventable epidemic of asbestos related will occur, unless urgent action is taken to stop using asbestos in building materials. We bear witness that many thousands of people die every year from lung cancers and mesotheliomas caused by exposure to asbestos at work in the building trades. Due to its long latency period, (sometimes over 30 years) the asbestos-related diseases are a ticking time bomb that will continue to kill for many more years.
The BWI is joining the Asia Ban Asbestos Network mission to Quebec on December 9th, to once again urge the government of Canada to stop the production of asbestos, to stop the export of asbestos, and to contribute actively towards the Global Ban on all forms of Asbestos and the elimination of asbestos diseases. The BWI invites affiliates to support the mission on December 9th, by organising activities in their own countries.
Signed by the Members of the Building and Woodworkers International World Board and World Council, representing 13 million building workers world wide.
Geneva 3rd December 2010