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Angry about asbestos

The needle-like fibres seemed like nature's perfect gift. Fireproof, indestructible and cheap, from the 1940s to the 1970s, asbestos was everywhere. It was woven into clothes, used to insulate buildings and even mixed with water as children's play dough. That was before studies linked asbestos dust with cancer and lung disease. Authorities now say asbestos, when handled properly, poses little risk. But nagging concerns, highlighted by the plight of the asbestos miners, have resulted in a shrivelling industry.

Asbestos still instils fear.
"I have three small children," says one father, "I'm not going to have them at risk for nobody."
Parents of students at Our Lady of Victory Elementary School in Toronto are angry and scared about the asbestos found in the building's insulation. Anxious parents have gathered at a PTA meeting to address the school board about their concerns.

By now, the health hazards of asbestos are well documented. Although studies by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and Health Canada say asbestos-containing materials in buildings generally do not pose a hazard, parents demand immediate action.
• In many Third World countries asbestos is still widely used in construction materials such as roofing shingles and pipe and boiler insulation.
• From 1959 to 1971, Dr. Irving Selikoff estimates that more than half of the buildings built in Canada between 1959 and 1971 were fire-proofed with asbestos spray.
• Between the late 1980s and early 1990s, over $200 billion was spent on removal of asbestos insulation in the United States.
Medium: Radio
Program: As It Happens
Broadcast Date: March 22, 1990
Guest(s):
Host: Alan Maitland
Duration: 3:12

Last updated: April 22, 2013

Page consulted on March 24, 2014

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