New stats show asbestos epidemic in Canada

Wed, Dec 2, 2009


Canadian Association of Physicians for the Environment


New stats show asbestos epidemic in Canada

Minister is lone defender among Western nations of deadly mineral

Toronto – Prominent health experts from eight Canadian universities and leading health organisations, including the Canadian Cancer Society, are asking Health Minister Aglukkaq to deal with Canada’s growing epidemic of asbestos-related disease.

In a letter, being released today, the group states:

– Exposure to asbestos is the single biggest cause of worker death across Canada.

– Canada is decades behind other Western governments in protecting its citizens from asbestos

– Statistics show there are almost four new cases in Canada of deadly asbestos-related cancers every day

“In the face of this terrible, continuing and preventable public health tragedy, it is inconceivable to us”, say the group, ” that you, as Minister of Health, would continue to reject the call by the Canadian Medical Association, the Canadian Cancer Society, the Canadian Labour Congress, the World Health Organisation (WHO) and the World Federation of Public Health Associations to end the use of asbestos.”

“It is shocking to us,” they continue, “that federal government regulations permit workers to be exposed to asbestos fibres at a level that is ten times higher than the level permitted in all other Western countries and one hundred times higher than the level permitted by a number of countries, such as Germany and the Netherlands.” The group voices extreme concern that Ottawa is rejecting requests by the Canadian Cancer Society to change these dangerously high permitted exposure levels.

The group is also disturbed that Health Canada and other government departments are giving Canadians misleading and, at times, false information about asbestos.

“We are calling on the Health Minister to live up to her responsibility to defend public health and to stop being the only health minister in the Western world defending use of asbestos,” said Dr Kapil Khatter, president of the Canadian Association of Physicians for the Environment.

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