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The asbestos debate takes off again

The Story

Prominent Canadian doctors are renewing a call for an international ban on asbestos. They say it poses a proven health risk to workers and the environment. The doctors are particularly concerned about the exporting of Canadian asbestos to the third world. But Dr. Michel Camus of Health Canada disagrees. He tells CBC Television that strict safety measures have reduced the risks. In fact, Dr. Camus argues, substitutes for asbestos may be more dangerous than asbestos itself. Scientists remain divided on the issue.

Medium: Television
Program: Canada Now
Broadcast Date: Feb. 19, 2001
Guest(s): Michel Camus, Denis Hamel
Reporter: Gerri Barrer
Duration: 2:35

Did You know?

• In 1996, France, Europe's biggest importer of Canadian chrysotile, imposed a ban on asbestos products. Canada challenged the ban with the World Trade Organization (WTO) saying the ban wasn't based on adequate scientific evidence. Canada argued that chrysotile fibres were no more dangerous than other substitute fibres. But in the end WTO sided with France.

• In November 2003, Canada along with Russia blocked a plan to add the most common form of asbestos - chrysotile - to the list covered by the Rotterdam Convention on trade in hazardous chemicals. Chrysotile, the most common form of asbestos accounts for 95 per cent of commercial production.

• The 15 member countries that make up the European Union have proposed a ban on all forms of asbestos. The EU wants to outlaw chrysotile by 2005.
• In fall 2004, Canada will face a United Nations challenge over its production and export of asbestos. CBC's Mark Kelley spoke to Julia Langer of the World Wildlife Fund and Aleksander Ignatow, the acting director general at the Minerals and Metals Sector of Natural Resources Canada, for Canada's right to export asbestos to developing countries.



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