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Monday, 29 October, 2007

Canada's cancer export industry

In an excellently reported and photographed piece, The Globe and Mail's Martin Mittelstaedt and Louie Palu examine Canada's ":"

Before asbestos became feared as one of the most powerful cancer-causing agents ever used, it was heralded as the "magic mineral." In an age of impermanence, asbestos offered durability. While it had the texture of wool, it didn't burn and was incredibly resistant to decay. That is why it was once used in thousands of products, everything from car brake pads to insulation on some of the giant steel girders holding up the World Trade Center.

But asbestos has a big problem. When used, it promiscuously sheds tiny dust fibres. Once inhaled, the fibres become tangled in lung tissues, where they wreak havoc — typically lung cancer, asbestosis and mesothelioma, a rare, painful and almost always fatal cancer of the lining of the chest wall. The World Health Organization estimates asbestos kills at least 90,000 people a year — about half of all occupational cancer deaths.

The unfortunate drawback of killing large numbers of people has led more than 40 countries, a who's who of advanced industrialized nations, to outlaw asbestos use. But Canada isn't among them. [...]

Since it's a carcinogen, Canadians don't use much of it any more. Even the asbestos in the Parliament Buildings is being removed. But the country remains one of the world's biggest purveyors of the deadly mineral, selling abroad 95 per cent of the output from the country's two remaining mines, both in Quebec, a business worth about $93-million a year.
The article is worth a read (and the photos are great; click the photo above to see all ten). The article goes on to document the damage that Canadian asbestos exportation (which continues today) has had on India and other developing nations. It also touches on Canada's efforts to block WHO and UN anti-asbestos resolutions, as in , as documented by the Montreal Gazette.

Canadian physicians have for .

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