Lobby groups call for registry of buildings containing asbestos

Lobby groups on P.E.I. are calling for a registry of buildings containing asbestos.

Many buildings on P.E.I. still contain asbestos

Two health lobby groups are calling for a national public registry of buildings containing asbestos.

Decades ago, asbestos was a popular insulation material. That was before it was linked to cancer.

Workers on P.E.I. were removing lead paint on Thursday and the safety equipment and measures they were taking are similar to the removal of asbestos.

Sam Sanderson said about 75 per cent of his company's work on the Island is asbestos related.

"Asbestos can be in vinyl sheet flooring, vinyl flooring, it can be in your drywall joint compound," said Sanderson. "It could be in your plaster, could be in your insulation in your attic and various places like that."

The Canadian Cancer Society and the Canadian Medical Association want to see a national public registry of buildings containing asbestos. That's something Sanderson would encourage.

"The more information we have going into a job, the better off we all are," said Sanderson.

Asbestos can cause cancer and other diseases but isn't harmful unless disturbed. It was used widely across the country from the 1920's to the 1990's. But the Canadian Cancer Society says people aren't aware of the potential dangers.

"We did a survey a little while ago with 1,000 Canadians, and less than half are aware of the dangers of, and understand the impact of asbestos," said Lori Barker of the Canadian Cancer Society of PEI. "So we need to increase the awareness of that so people can protect themselves accordingly."

Bill Reid of the health and safety division of the PEI Workers Compensation Board says there are strict provincial regulations to protect people who work with asbestos. While he says a registry would raise awareness there are questions too.

"I guess a concern may be is how thorough is this registry and the fact that if its not totally inclusive," said Reid. "You wouldn't want assumptions out there as well that people may assume that it's safe, when it's not."

The Canadian Cancer Society says if property owners know they have asbestos in their building, they should have trained professionals remove it, instead of tackling the job themselves.

Parliament is expected to vote on the asbestos registry motion in December.