Thursday, September 2, 2010

What price a few hundred votes?

The asbestos industry in Quebec has become a national embarrassment. The health risks from this mineral have been known since the early 1900’s and ultimately led many countries to ban the mining or use of asbestos. Not so in Canada where the federal and Quebec governments continue to actively support an industry that kills in those third-world countries and elsewhere where a ban does not exist.

According to the World Health Organization, asbestos-related illnesses result in as many as 107,000 deaths a year. And since Canada produces about 10% of the world’s asbestos (virtually all of which is exported), 10,000 of those deaths could be directly attributed to this industry, and by extension, to the federal and Quebec governments.

The Chrysotile Institute maintains that the form of asbestos being mined in Canada, chrysotile, is significantly less dangerous than the amphibole types used in years past. On their web site they state, “they are much more less dangerous than amphiboles which were ban a long time ago” (all typos and grammatical errors included.) but then go on to provide a series of safe handling considerations which are all intended to help avoid the inhalation of fibres.

Some reports claim that asbestos mining accounts for about 700 direct (mining) jobs and another 2,000 indirect jobs – most if not all in the Province of Quebec. If those 10,000 deaths were all occurring in Canada you can be sure our governments would have reacted by now, but since they are predominantly in 3rd world countries like India and China one has to wonder whether the two governments consider 3 to 4 deaths per year a reasonable trade off for each of those Quebec jobs and votes.

No comments: