Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Crysotile Asbestos: transparency or the lack thereof

          Asbestos, the insulating fiber, is a known carcinogen. The crysotile variant is less so but requires special handling to prevent inhalation of the carcinogenic fibers. Canada exports the fiber to third world countries like India from mines in Québec. The trade has been denounced because the "special handling to prevent inhalation" is rarely, if ever, achieved in the third world. See, for example:

           Why then does the Harper government continue to support the international trade in crysotile fiber when it is well known that lives in third world countries are being lost to lung cancer and other respiratory illnesses as a result of exposure to the fibers in unsafe working conditions? It is like a man profiting from selling hypodermic needles to junkies with the argument, "well, I don't know what they use them for". Out of sight, out of mind: it's a crappy morality..

           Less we be accused of Left wing bias - US?? - it should be noted that Canadian unions don't come out smellin' like roses either. As a group they have been internally paralyzed by Québec unions in the industry who have placed local job security over 3rd world health and lives. Short term logic of course: we save our jobs in Québec and to hell with Asian workers. Did no one tell them of "Divide and conquer!"


  1. update:

    The true injustice and inhumanity of the Harper gov's blocking chryostile asbestos safety labelling (for exported asbestos products)rarely rises to most people's radar screen. Listen to the audio clip "asbestos in the family" for a heart wrenching 1st story of a family devastated by mesothelioma (nasty lung cancer caused by inhaling small asbestos fibers). This is not a nice way to die and the disease itself if rarely treatable: a near death sentence.

    What the Harperite probusiness types don't tell you is that even family members of asbestos workers are at risk. The bread winner brings the fibers home in their clothing. "We called it 'fairy dust'" said one woman speaking of the tiny, light reflecting particles that fell from her father's clothing when she embraced him after work.

    Below is a letter to the government on the part of concerned Canadian physicians and other interested groups:

    And from the "Stranger than Fiction" file: Even conservatives find something amiss in Canada's stance on abestos product safety labelling (at least when they themselves become victims of exposure..)

  2. On "The Current" this morning, Heidi von Palleske, whose father died of asbestos induced lung cancer, spoke in eloquent words of the immorality of the Federal goverment's refusal to label chrysotile asbestos as a hazardous substance. She did not mince words: the Harper government is "worse than 18th century imperial governments" and is "hypocritcal". The latter remark is particularly interesting given that the Harperites ran - and were elected on - a platform of law and order, responsible government and transparency following public outrage over the Chrétien goverment's procurement scandals. Alas! Once in office, they too, it seems, turn and abuse the public's trust..

    What von Palleske found so "hypocritical" and racist ("18th century imperial") is Canada's acceptance of the sale of a KNOWN CARCINOGEN (asbestos) to third world countries like India without adequate labelling regarding the risk of occupational diseases from unprotected exposure. She found it hypocritical that we spend many millions of dollars on cancer treatment and research at home and deliberately, willingly, fail to protect foreign workers from exposure to a Canadian produced carcinogen. Indeed - I, too, find it hypocritical and "racist".. not to mention barbaric: weren't working conditions like these abolished by civilized labor laws in the West (The "Rights of Man", "human dignity" and all that..)?

    And the risks are grave. Von Palleske's father brought home asbestos fibers in his clothing and hair, exposing his spouse and children. His wife is presently dying of this - generally - rare cancer. His two daughters must receive regular examinations (at taxpayers' expense, be it noted: when industries pass on "externalized costs" such as occupational disease or pollution, it is ultimately "society" that pays the bill, either the affected individuals or the taxpayer. This amounts to a DE FACTO SUBSIDY to the pollutor - who, of course, are rabid Free Marketeers and oppose subsidies to the arts or alternative energy projects..)

    One of von Palleske's daughters, Heidi, lucked out: her scans have come back clean. Her sister's position is dicier - leaving her psychologically "vulnerable": like her dying mother, she shows what may be early warning signs of respiratory disease including, possibly, the fatal mesothelioma that killed her dad and is now killing her mother.

    Listen to the audioclip

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  4. And there's more! Former Federal Tory cabinet minister Chuck Strahl suffers from mesothelioma (cancer of the lung lining), contracted from workplace exposure to chrysotile asbestos - the "safe" form of asbestos insulating fiber. On today's "The Current", Strahl admitted that it is a medical "miracle" that he is still alive and symptom free after 6 years: "Most guys that get diagnosed are dead in six to 12 months", he admitted in the following article:

  5. Here's the link to Chuck Strahl's op-ed piece in Globe and Mail: