In Asbestos, Quebec, a multinational corporation has proposed a deal that would ramp up the mining and production of the material the town is named for, AOl News reports. According to Andrew Schneider, the site’s Senior Public Health Correspondent, this is the largest asbestos mine in the world. Balcorp Ltd., a consortium of foreign investors, is asking the Canadian government for $57 million to refurbish the underground portion of the mine, Schneider says, which could supply asbestos to developing Asian countries for the next 25 years.
The painful irony is that, according to AOL News, Canada is already spending millions to safely remove asbestos from schools and federal buildings within its borders. The countries to which the mined asbestos will be shipped – mostly India, but also Vietnam, Cambodia, Thailand, Bangladesh, Indonesia, Pakistan, and the Philippines – all have extraordinarily lax or absent occupational safety laws, explains the article.
Spokespeople for Balcorp insist that chrysotile asbestos, the type mined in Quebec, is not harmful to humans, reports Schneider. The article explains that the Chrysotile Institute, Canada’s asbestos lobby, backs that assertion that this asbestos is safe. Chrysotile fibers are structured in a curly shape, rather than the needle-like shape of other types of asbestos, leading some people to claim it is less harmful. “It is thus quite useless to panic in sight of asbestos chrysotile or products containing this fiber,” says a public statement from the lobbying group, which recently changed its name from the Asbestos Institute, reports the article.
However, all types of asbestos have been proven carcinogenic, and medical experts quoted in the article strongly dispute the claim of safety. Dr. David Egilman, expert in internal and occupational medicine, says, “Based on all the studies that looked at where cancer occurs – the pleural cavity or lining of the lung – the most common fiber is chrysotile.” He is referring to mesothelioma, a rare and aggressive type of cancer with an average life expectancy of 8 to 14 months after diagnosis. In addition to mesothelioma, the article goes on to explain, asbestos exposure has been known to cause cancer of the lung, larynx, and ovaries, as well as other conditions such as asbestosis and pleural plaques.
Human rights advocates are up in arms over the fact that this hazardous substance, which is no longer used in Canada, will be exported to developing nations, AOL News reports. According to Schneider, the trade in asbestos is still thriving in many of these countries because it is strong, fireproof, and useful in a number of products, from construction materials to brake linings, despite its known tendency to cause cancer. Oncologist Michael Harbut, chief of the Center for Occupational and Environmental Medicine in Michigan, says in the article that “It is almost beyond belief that a free and democratic.”
which has repeatedly threatened to secede from the country. According to the article, residents of Asbestos bemoan the inactivity of the mine in recent years, refusing to link any illness or death in the town with the asbestos industry. Balcorp promises to create at least 500 new jobs, says Schneider, and provide their Canadian workers with the most up-to-date protective equipment. However, the company appears to have made no such provisions for the workers in other countries who will process, shape, and cut the asbestos-containing materials, which releases their deadly fibers into the air.