Canada Takes Action to Ban Asbestos

After many years of delay, the Canadian government recently announced that it will enact a comprehensive ban on asbestos and asbestos-containing products by 2018. The country’s long history of asbestos mining had ended when its two last asbestos mines closed in 2011. However, asbestos itself and its use in products was not banned, despite years of pressure from health advocates for the group of carcinogenic minerals to be outlawed.

Citing the need to protect the health and safety of Canadians, the government said it is developing new regulations that will ban the manufacture, use, import and export of asbestos under the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999 (CETA). Also planned are new federal workplace health and safety rules to drastically limit the risk of exposure to asbestos. In addition, an existing list of asbestos-containing buildings that are federally owned or leased will be expanded, and national, provincial and territorial building codes will be updated to prohibit the use of asbestos in new construction and renovation projects.

In April, the federal government took another step when it updated its international position on the listing of asbestos as a hazardous material and supported the listing of chrysotile asbestos to the Rotterdam Convention.

“By supporting the listing of chrysotile asbestos to the Rotterdam Convention, Canada is taking a concrete step to promote responsible management of this harmful substance globally,” said Catherine McKenna, minister of environment and climate change. “In Canada, we will also put in place regulatory measures to protect the health and safety of Canadians as we move forward toward a ban on asbestos.”

Now a consultation document has been published that outlines the proposed regulatory approach and solicits stakeholders’ views on the proposed measures.  The document asks for comments within 45 days of its publication. Following that, proposed regulations will be published by December 2017 and final regulations in the fall of 2018.

The proposed regulations would target asbestos, defined as any fibrous form of mineral silicates belonging to the serpentine or amphibole groups of rock-forming minerals including actinolite asbestos; amosite; anthophyllite asbestos; chrysotile; crocidolite; and tremolite asbestos. New stand-alone regulations under section 93 CEPA would prohibit the import, use, sale and offer for sale of asbestos, as well as the manufacture, use, sale, offer for sale and import of products containing asbestos. The export of all types of asbestos and products containing asbestos would also be prohibited.

The consultation document can be viewed on Environment and Climate Change Canada’s website.


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