Media Release

CELA Supports the North American Declaration to Eliminate Asbetos-Related Diseases

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Dec 08 2011

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE                                

Environmental Law Clinic Calls for Broad Support for the North American Declaration to Eliminate Asbestos-Related Diseases

Toronto - The Canadian Environmental Law Association (CELA) today adds its support to the North American Declaration to Eliminate Asbestos Related Diseases (access the Declaration at that urgently calls on Canada’s Prime Minister Stephen Harper and U.S. President Barack Obama to develop an action plan that will end the use and export of asbestos in North America. The North American Declaration was released in Washington, D.C. today by Asbestos Disease Awareness Organization (ADAO) and the Canadian Voices of Asbestos Victims, organizations that support victims and their families.

Asbestos is classified by the International Agency for Research on Cancer as a human carcinogen and the World Health Organization estimates that over 100,000 people die from asbestos-related diseases each year. In Canada, asbestos is considered toxic under federal law, the Canadian Environmental Protection Act (CEPA), but CEPA does not prohibit the on-going production and export of asbestos in Canada to developing countries where the regulatory framework to require safe handling and disposal of asbestos may not exist. Last week the Hill Times reported that 1000 metric tonnes of asbestos has been removed from federal government buildings on the West Block and from the Wellington building since August 2011.

“We know that asbestos is a human carcinogen. To protect the health of workers, families and the community from asbestos exposure and disease, CELA is supporting the North American declaration,” stated Joseph Castrilli, CELA lawyer.

“We want what over 50 countries have already achieved which is to end the mining, use, and export of all forms of asbestos. We need to look for safe alternatives and a commitment for a transition plan to protect affected workers and their communities. This is the purpose of the declaration. We hope the unified voices of organizations and individuals across Canada and the U.S. will be heard by our Prime Minister and the U.S. President.” said Ramani Nadarajah, also a CELA lawyer.

“For the first time in decades, Canada’s asbestos mines have stopped production. However, a decision to finance, reopen and expand the Jeffrey Mine in Quebec is expected by the end of the year”, said Fe de Leon, Researcher at CELA. “If the Quebec government supports a decision to restart these mining operations, it will entrench the Canadian export of this cancer causing substance for decades to come. For developing countries where there are markets for Canadian asbestos, workers and their communities will bear the burden of asbestos exposure since exporters are not required to provide information on the toxicity or safe handling of these hazardous substances. This year, Canada was one of several countries that opposed listing asbestos under the Rotterdam Convention for exchanging information on hazardous substances. Consequently, health and safety labeling need not accompany these exports to unsuspecting workers.”

The North American declaration will be delivered to Canada’s Prime Minister Stephen Harper in Ottawa and U.S. President Barack Obama in Washington, in early 2012.

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