[This is a post by guest writer Eric Stevenson, a health and safety advocate who resides in the Southeastern US].
Canada is well-known for its freshwater, its food, its winter sports, and its free health care system. Its people have earned reputations as earnest, kind, hard workers and as a whole it is seen as a peaceful and generous nation. But recently the public’s opinion of Canada has been changing, and for unbelievable reasons.
Asbestos, Quebec is the home of Canada’s last and largest chrysotile mine. Chrysotile is a form of asbestos found in the earth and used in building materials, form drywall to ship parts. The Jeffrey Mine is the world’s largest asbestos mine and has commercially exported nearly 90% of the world’s asbestos. Asbestos was at one time considered a completely harmless material. It is fire-retardant, resists wear and rusting, and is relatively inexpensive. Yet for decades, over 50 countries have banned asbestos from commercial and residential use. Studies prove that asbestos is an aggressive carcinogen. When asbestos is disturbed, its fibers are released into the air and inhaled and ingested by workers and those living with the toxic material.
Inhaling or ingesting asbestos results in a deadly cancer called mesothelioma. Buildups of asbestos fibers collect in the lining of the lungs or stomach and extended exposure to the material greatly increases the risk of mesothelioma. Mesothelioma symptoms include coughing and shortness of breath and are often dormant for 20-50 years. This means that factory workers in the Jeffrey Mine, their family members who are at risk for secondhand exposure, and those to whom the asbestos will be sold may not realize that they have developed the cancer for several years. This allows the cancer to metastasize without diagnosis or treatment. Mesothelioma life expectancy ranges from only 3 months to a year. About 98% of those diagnosed with mesothelioma die shortly afterwards.
Though Canada is among the countries that have strict asbestos regulations in place, it insists that exporting the mineral will not harm those exposed to its carcinogenic effects. Yet the World Health Organization reports that approximately 107,000 people die from asbestos-related diseases every year. The investors of the Jeffrey Mine project are determined to proceed with the unearthing of what they believe to be the largest asbestos deposit in the world. Though many Canadians disagree with the decision to export deadly toxins, those intending to buy Jeffrey Mine plan to sell asbestos to countries that have less strict or a complete lack of asbestos laws and regulations. Thus, while Canada spends millions to rid its schools and homes of asbestos, investors hope to fill schools and homes of others with it.
The potential factory owners insist that they will use asbestos-safe gear, ventilation, showers, and filters in their factory and, according to an AOL news report, they plan to provide these amenities so that workers will not carry the fibers home to their spouses and children, thus contaminating them as well. Such precautions would be unnecessary if the asbestos being mined was truly considered harmless.
Canada has its eye on its economic future, but refuses to consider the well-being of workers and families around the world. The dangers of asbestos and symptoms of mesothelioma have been widespread knowledge and the use of the product has been banned in many countries since the 1970’s. Exporting it to others simply to make a profit is not only bad business, it’s downright unethical and must be recognized as such.