Premier Charest Accused Of Lying About Asbestos

With another damning report published on asbestos in the American Journal of Industrial Medicine, a group of prominent Canadian physicians have accused Premier Jean Charest of lying to the public about the mineral, rebutting his contention asbestos has benign uses.

While, on a trade mission to India recently, anti-asbestos protesters attached Charest and his government accusing them of hypocrisy in exporting cancer-causing asbestos to developing countries, even while ensuring its removal from all schools and public buildings in Quebec, because of health concerns.

Asbestos in developing countries us used as an additive for strengthening cement.

The Premier is quoted as saying while on the trade mission: ‘Chrysotile (asbestos) can be used in a safe manner; this is what WHO reports say. It is not a banned substance. It is up to the government of India to put the necessary laws in place.’

The World Health Organization (WHO) recommending against using any form of asbestos, in fact, said all types of asbestos, including chrysotile mined in Quebec cause asbestosis, mesothelioma and cancer of the lung. While, in 2006 the International Labour Organization (ILO) adopted a resolution urging elimination of all forms of asbestos, including materials containing asbestos.

A group of 14 Canadian physicians, including Abby Lippman from McGill University’s and Montreal Chest Institute’s respiratory physician Dick Menzies, in their letter to Charest expressed shock over his statements, accusing him of misrepresenting WHO’s position.

Menzies states asbestos sale to countries lacking resources for workplace safety standards enforcement was tantamount to selling guns to children. Despite warning them of the danger, arguing it is not a carcinogen is ludicrous, and to say is dangerous but the responsibility of handling it lies with them, is unacceptable morally.

The report published in the March issue of the American Journal of Industrial Medicine shows the devastating impact asbestos from Quebec is having on the health of all those workers in Mexico coming into contact with the mineral.

The researchers looked at 472 Mexican workers, 80% of whom had been exposed to asbestos on the job, finding 119 of them to have pleural mesothelioma, a fatal lung disease.

Treating each mesothelioma case during the first year was estimated to cost US $8,238.

Canada does not use much asbestos due to health and litigation risks, exporting 95% of Quebec’s output to the developing world. Mexico accounted for about one-third of Canada’s asbestos market in 2008.