Asbestos was first discovered in North America in the province of Quebec in 1860. By 1898, the medical community was suspecting it was harmful to health. Why did it take so long to raise suspicion?
The end of asbestos mining in Canada did not end of our affair with asbestos, however. As recently as last year, Canada was still importing raw asbestos and asbestos-containing products such as brake pads, pipes, tiles and clothing in amounts totaling about $4.9 million. For context, $4.9 million represents about 0.00069 % of Canada's annual imports. Given its tiny contribution to the economy and the alternatives available, you have to wonder why it is necessary to bring asbestos into the country.
In 2012, the Canadian federal government agreed to end its support of foreign asbestos mining and to stop opposing efforts to have asbestos listed as a dangerous substance as part of an international effort to protect people in developing countries from exposure under the Rotterdam Convention. But it continues to defend asbestos imports, saying asbestos is only dangerous when exposed to the air. Unfortunately, that can easily occur when asbestos-containing products are damaged, and at that point, there is no safe level of exposure.
It's time for the Canadian federal government to do the right thing and ban asbestos.