Canada Asbestos Ban to Take Effect on Sunday

After a 3-year promise that asbestos would disappear from their country, Canadians are delighted that the ban will begin this coming Sunday, though many advocates rallying for those with asbestos diseases say the country still has a long way to go in making the ban all-inclusive.

Canada Asbestos Ban to Take Effect on SundayThe federal regulations that were announced this past fall serve to fulfill a 2016 promise by the government that will prohibit the import, sale, and use of asbestos and asbestos-containing products. But there are still some exceptions.

“Although it’s not a total ban, it’s a step in the right direction,” Sandra Kinart, with the Sarnia group Victims of Chemical Valley, told the Sarnia Observer. “We will still be persevering on driving change for the future.”

The term “Chemical Valley” refers to a 15-mile-wide area in Sarnia, Ontario that includes some 60 chemical plants and oil refineries. Situated on Lake Ontario, the town is home to about 72,000 residents and scores of them (as well as generations before them) work for the industries there.

Whereas the smoke stacks in the region were once a sign of the province’s industrial prosperity, the high concentration of pollutants in the atmosphere now make Sarnia the most polluted location in Canada.

Most affected by the toxins is the Aamjiwnaang First Nations Reserve, which is literally surrounded by the vast amount of industry. Waves of various illnesses in that community can likely be blamed on exposure to hazards like asbestos and a variety of other chemicals.

According to Atlas Obscura, large companies like Dow Chemical, Sunoco, and Shell have denied problems in the area and insist that their plants are/were not responsible for illnesses or poor air quality in and around Sarnia.

However, the members of Victims of Chemical Valley feel differently. The organization, which was formed by widows and relatives of asbestos-exposed industrial workers in the Sarnia area, say the rate of mesothelioma among men in their community is more than five times the national average.

Even the local rate of asbestos-caused cancer among women has averaged three times the provincial average.

Those are notable figures, say Kinart and her fellow organization members, and she doesn’t like the fact that some uses of asbestos will be around for at least another 6 years.

That includes the asbestos used in the production of chlorine and caustic soda as well as some uses of residues left from mining asbestos, including extracting magnesium from the tailings left over after mining ceased in Canada in 2011.

Experts tell Kinart that the process used for extracting magnesium destroys the asbestos, but she’s skeptical.

“To me, that’s a great concern,” she told the Observer “When you know an asbestos fibre is so fine you cannot see it with the human eye, how are they going to get that out?”