The federal government should take immediate action to ban asbestos in Canada and establish an expert panel to review how the deadly substance is managed and disposed of in the country, a group of prominent organizations is urging, at a time when new annual numbers show asbestos is again – by far – the top on-the-job killer in Canada.
New data highlight the deadly toll of asbestos exposures on Canadian workers. Asbestos was the cause of death in 367 accepted claims in 2015, according to figures compiled by the Association of Workers’ Compensation Boards of Canada, making it the No. 1 workplace killer in the country. Since 1996, there have been 5,614 recorded work-related fatalities from asbestos.
An open letter, submitted to the Prime Minister Wednesday and released exclusively to The Globe and Mail, calls for a comprehensive asbestos ban and says Canada should follow the lead of Australia in establishing an asbestos management review process. The letter was signed by 68 groups, including the Canadian Teachers’ Federation, the Registered Nurses’ Association of Ontario and many large unions, along with more than 50 individuals, such as doctors, scientists, professors and families who have lost loved ones to asbestos-related diseases. Unlike more than 50 countries around the world, Canada has never banned asbestos, and was a large exporter until the last mine closed in 2011. Despite a Liberal pledge to ban it, the mineral continues to enter the country in imports, such as pipes and brake pads. Medical experts say the number of deaths from asbestos-related diseases will continue to grow, because of the long latency periods and the impact of continued exposure.