Long Overdue, Canada announces Asbestos Ban for 2018

Posted by Injury Lawyers of Ontario on January 08, 2017

For a long time, asbestos has been known to cause fatal cancers and lung diseases.  Asbestos has largely been phased out in Canada for residential and commercial uses, although it still exists in many buildings constructed before 1980.  Also, Canada currently allows the import of products containing asbestos, including automotive parts (such as brake pads) and construction products, although this country no longer exports asbestos. 

Many people will be surprised to learn that exposure to asbestos is the number one cause of death on the job, in Canada, according to the Mesothelioma Center (www.asbestos.com).  Further, Canada has one of the highest rates of mesothelioma in the world, resulting from the mining of chrysotile asbestos (which was phased out in 2011), as well as asbestos use and production. 

In December, the Canadian government announced a comprehensive plan to ban asbestos and asbestos-containing products by 2018. Many people and organizations, including the Canadian Cancer Society, believe that this ban is long overdue.  Effective April 1, 2016, Canada prohibited the use of asbestos-containing materials in any new construction or renovation projects.  Asbestos is currently banned in Australia, Japan and Europe.

Asbestos was declared a human carcinogen by the World Health Organization (WHO) in 1987.  If inhaled, asbestos fibres can cause asbestosis (a lung disease which makes breathing difficult); mesothelioma (cancer of the lining of the chest or abdominal cavity); and lung cancer.  About 2,000 Canadians die every year of asbestos-related diseases, and many of these deaths result from exposure while on the job (CBC News, Dec 9, 2016).

On December 15, 2016, CBC’s The Current reported a tragic story of a Hamilton man who died from exposure to asbestos fibers.  The man was a pipe and steam fitter, who was diagnosed with mesothelioma resulting from asbestos exposure, in June 2016, and succumbed to the disease in August.  A person can be exposed to asbestos fiber but may not be diagnosed until between 10 and 40 years after exposure.  Mesothelioma is an aggressive cancer that primarily develops in the lining of the lungs or the abdomen, and there is no known cure.  

In the past, asbestos was used throughout the world in over 3,000 applications, but asbestos production and use have been declining worldwide since the 1970’s.  Asbestos was in demand because it is particularly resistant to heat and fire, absorbs sounds and is also inexpensive to use.  The last asbestos mine stopped operating in Canada in 2011.

Although asbestos presents little or no health risk if it is undisturbed and entirely contained within a building structure, anyone handling this material or renovating a building already containing asbestos may be at risk. Electricians, contractors, firefighters and others sometimes unknowingly disturb walls, ceilings and other structures that contain asbestos fibre, which puts them at risk of injury.  Miners, ship workers and truck drivers who handle an asbestos product may also risk exposure and injury.

Canada’s plan to ban asbestos includes the following directives:

·       Establishing new regulations to ban the manufacture, use, import and export of asbestos (under the Environmental Protection Act of Canada)

·       Creating new workplace health and safety rules to substantially limit the risk for anyone coming into contact with asbestos in the workplace

·       Expanding the existing (online) list of asbestos-containing federally owned or leased buildings

·       In collaboration with the provinces/territories, changing building codes to prohibit using asbestos in new construction and renovations

·       Updating Canada’s status on an international treaty to list asbestos as a hazardous material (before next year’s Rotterdam Convention)

·       Raising public awareness on the health impacts of aspects, in the hopes of reducing asbestos-related diseases.

Anyone who is exposed to a dangerous material or condition and subsequently becomes ill or injured, may be entitled to compensation from the negligent party responsible for their injury.  If you or a loved one sustained an injury believed to be caused by an unsafe condition, call an experienced personal injury lawyer to find out about your legal rights given the unique circumstances of your case. 










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