Canada’s chronic asbestos problem

Quoted from

Canada’s chronic asbestos problem

John Gray and Stephanie Nolen

From Friday’s Globe and Mail
Published Monday, Nov. 21, 2011 11:07AM EST
Last updated Monday, Nov. 21, 2011 1:48PM EST

For a place of modest size, Asbestos has made an impressive imprint on the Canadian psyche. In 1949, the Asbestos Strike—which took place at the mines in Asbestos and nearby Thetford Mines—helped to usher in the Quiet Revolution that shaped the modern Quebec. And in 2011, the place’s eponymous product is giving a black eye to Canada’s international reputation as a fair dealer.

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Most of the world, including the medical community, agrees that asbestos is desperately dangerous. The World Health Organization reports that more than 100,000 people die every year from lung cancer and other respiratory diseases due to asbestos exposure. And many more will die, because 125 million people are exposed to asbestos in their workplaces today and every day.

No surprise, then, that the stuff is effectively banned in Canada. And a surprise, to observers, that Canada exports it to other countries, most notoriously India, where public-health regimes are less vigorous than in Canada.

But that fact is no more mysterious than two forces that are as well known in India as they are in Canada. One is the power of supply and demand. The other is the vacuum of political indifference.

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