Fire Away: Greed, the most toxic substance of all

Thursday, June 30, 2011

  • The dangers of asbestos

    The dangers of asbestos

Written by Stephanie Rennie

The word asbestos has always scared me. Like the idea of ghosts and spiders, it gives me shivers down my spine but for completely different and more realistic reasons.

Last year I started a summer job in an old, decaying edifice. On my first day, I received strict instruction regarding the many tightly and precisely wrapped white pipes hanging in the basement of this antique building. These pipes were filled with closely monitored asbestos. Binders upon binders of tracking sheets, weekly safety checks, and numerous health and safety meetings were put into ensuring the safety of people over these few pipes in one building.

From this minor experience with a substance that immediately triggers alarm bells for most people, I was able to comprehend the severity and strict regulation of something that has been officially proclaimed as dangerous for Canadians.

Though Canada is the second largest exporter of chrysotile asbestos next to Russia, Canadians no longer utilize this substance. Any remaining asbestos is very rigorously controlled and examined.

It is obvious that Canadians are aware of the harmful effects of a substance that has become synonymous with hazard and disease.  

With this in mind, I am absolutely shocked and disgusted with the Canadian government’s recent objection to including chrysotile asbestos within the Rotterdam Convention.

The Rotterdam Convention functions as an essential outlet for developing nations to become informed of the dangers posed by particular chemicals and substances that they are importing from other nations.

This list of dangerous materials is designed to ensure that those receiving substances from other countries are given adequate information and precautions on the goods they are importing to protect the health of their respective nation.

In Canada, the negative effects of asbestos are obvious as immense plans were made more than forty years ago to strip homes and public places of the dangerous substance. Following the release of damages on the health of miners and construction workers, the severity of the health issues posed by asbestos created panic across the nation.

Now, forty years later, country leaders from across the world met at the United Nations in Geneva to discuss the implications of hazardous substances for the Rotterdam Convention.

On June 20th 2011, the Conservative government of Canada made the controversial decision not to include asbestos within the list of dangerous materials.

As a result, countries importing asbestos from Canada will be unaware of the dangerous effects of this substance. A substance that has been banned in most of the European Union, a substance that is no longer utilized in the very country from which it is exported, and a substance that has been the cause of thousands of illnesses.

Though the meeting is over and the decision has been made, much protest is brewing in response to the government’s choices. If you are interested in joining the many voices that are distraught about this issue, you can find more information and a petition urging for politicians to ban exports of asbestos at:

Such a decision truly makes one question where priorities of the Conservative government lie as greed overpowers the overall health and well-being of innocent people.

Stephanie Rennie is Editor-in-Chief of thecannon. Fire Away publishes every other Thursday in The Cannon and in The Ontarion Student Newspaper at the University of Guelph.

The opinions posted on thecannon.ca reflect those of their author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the Central Student Association and the Guelph Campus Co-op. We encourage all students to submit opinion pieces, including ones that run contrary to the opinion piece in question.

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