It’s been a long time coming, according to most Canadians. In a country where asbestos has touched many families, Canadians – in general – say they are looking forward to the recently-announced government ban on the toxic material, which should be initiated by the start of 2018, says the government. In the meantime, many steps are being taken to ready the country for the ban.
This week in the capital city of Ottawa, various federal governmental departments have begun to compile lists of buildings they operate that contain asbestos materials.
In Canada, that’s a tall order as the chrysotile form of the mineral was used abundantly in the building trade, largely because it was mined in the Province of Quebec in a town appropriately named “Asbestos”.
Most of the buildings, according to a press release, are owned or leased by the Department of Public Services and Procurement Canada (PSPC) which has already released a registry of buildings containing asbestos.
PSPC is now helping other agencies/departments draft their own lists of buildings that must be addressed due to the upcoming ban.
It was announced last September that agencies and departments had 12 months to complete these public registries and submit their results.
Donna Ziegler, director of cancer control for the Canadian Cancer Society’s Saskatchewan division, notes that she is pleased that the federal government is including both owned and leased buildings on their registry, which is something that not all provincial governments are doing.
Some are only listing buildings that are owned by the local government and disregarding those that are rented from private owners.
Ziegler also hopes that individual cities and private companies jump on the bandwagon and do the same, putting asbestos-containing buildings they own on a registry for all to see.
“If you don’t have all of them on board, it’s a mishmash of what’s public and what’s not,” she explained. Otherwise, workers and firemen enter a building under construction without knowing what risk they’re exposed to, and whether any asbestos has been encapsulated.”
“We know the majority, almost all of our buildings [in Canada] are older than 30 years, so most would contain asbestos,” Ziegler added.
Longtime Canadian citizens like Ziegler have been asking for the upcoming ban for many years, concerned that the rates of mesothelioma and other asbestos-related diseases are particularly high in Canada, especially in the areas where asbestos was mined for more than a century.
Though the government argued for years that the type of asbestos mined in Quebec – chrysotile or “white” asbestos – isn’t dangerous, numerous studies have shown otherwise.
Indeed, cases of mesothelioma in Canada have been on the rise for more than two decades. According to a recent national health study, 2.1 of every 100,000 Canadians are diagnosed with mesothelioma each year and the disease accounts for one-third of all workplace-related deaths.