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Call for asbestos mining ban

18th May 2010

Canadian parliamentary activists are urging the province of Ottowa to ban asbestos mining altogether.

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The province usually exports mined asbestos to developing nations, where it is used as a cheap building material.

In India, where the use of asbestos is widespread, construction workers held a hunger strike last month, protesting against the country's use of the material.

China is another country where asbestos use is still widespread.

Pat Martin, an opposition member of the Canadian parliament, said that asbestos was the greatest industrial killer that the world had ever known.

The activists involved said that Canada was exporting human misery on a monumental scale by selling its asbestos to poor countries.

The Canadian government was not available to comment on the situation.

Asbestos fibres are strong, and were widely used in furnaces until the 1970s.

People who have been exposed to large amounts of asbestos develop lung and skin tumours which shorten their lifespans by decades.

The dangers of asbestos exposure were known to the ancient Greeks and Romans, whose slaves were required to weave asbestos cloth.

Sandra Kinart, an activist whose husband died of lung disease due to asbestos exposure, said that she was asking the government to stop mining and selling asbestos.

She said she believed that employers had a responsibility to their workers to keep them safe.

Tushar Kant Joshi, an anti-asbestos advocate and occupational health expert from India, said asbestos products had done little to improve Canada's economic health.

He said that, however, the exports had seriously damaged people's health in foreign countries.

Other countries with large asbestos export industries include Zimbabwe, Russia, and Brazil.

In 1979, the Canadian asbestos industry was valued at US$652 million, a figure which has fallen significantly since.

Mike Bradley, mayor of Sarnia, Ontario, said that people in third-world countries would still continue to use asbestos if Canada did not ban the substance.

 

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