Public health officials in Quebec have added their voices to those calling on the Canadian government to end its support for the mining and use of asbestos.
The group has sent a letter to federal Health Minister Leona Aglukkaq criticizing the government for its support of the mineral that has been banned in many countries as a health hazard.
The issue is a sensitive one in Quebec, home to the country’s only operational asbestos mine, located in the town of Thetford Mines.
In the letter sent to Aglukkaq by the Canadian Association of Physicians for the Environment and the Rideau Institute, Quebec public health officials said they are "extremely disturbed" by what they call "misleading, inadequate and, at times, false information" about the risks of asbestos found on Health Canada's and other government websites.
"This industry in Canada should not be promoted like it is currently with federal and provincial funds," said Dr. Pierre Gosselin, a researcher affiliated with Quebec’s National Institute of Public Health.
Prime Minister Stephen Harper reiterated his support for the industry during a visit to Thetford Mines area in August, calling it an important regional issue for Quebec.
But Gosselin dismissed that idea.
"There's only one mine left, with 300 and some workers," he said. "It's a very minor activity in Canada nowadays."
Aglukkaq has not yet responded to the letter.
Quebec report studies effects
The letter comes amid reports the Quebec government has been holding on to a report that explores the link between asbestos-related cancer and the community of Thetford Mines for eight months.
The study is believed to be the first Canadian research to look at asbestos-related cancer in a specific region, The Canadian Press reported Wednesday.
Quebec's public health institute delivered the completed report to regional officials and the provincial Health Ministry in March.
But the study, and its potentially alarming conclusions, still hasn't been made public. Officials say that will finally happen this month.
Asbestos, also known as chrysotile, is recognized for its heat- and fire-resistant qualities. It was widely used in Canada and around the world between the 1950s and the '70s, often as insulation.