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Asbestos and lead: Canada’s toxic exports

The use of asbestos and lead is strictly regulated in Canada. There are tight provincial and federal controls on the asbestos and lead content in consumer products and on the sale, advertising, importation and disposal of asbestos and lead-containing materials.[1] These substances pose serious risks to public health. According to the World Health Organization, exposure to asbestos can cause cancer and chronic respiratory conditions.[2] Exposure to lead can lead to gastrointestinal problems, liver and kidney damage, hypertension and neurological damage. The risks associated with lead exposure are particularly high for children.[3]

While Canadian regulations controlling the domestic use of asbestos and lead have existed for over forty years, Canadian companies continue to export these toxic substances overseas, to countries where few, if any, regulations exist. As late as 2011, Canada was exporting asbestos to India, Bangladesh, Indonesia and Thailand.[4] Though all Canadian asbestos mines have since been closed, the Canadian exportation of asbestos is still legal.[5]

The Canadian exportation of lead products is also legal. In 2013, Canada exported more than 49 million kilograms of lead pigments used in paint, plastic and ink to countries all over the world.[6] The world’s largest producer of lead pigments is Dominion Colour Corporation, a privately held company headquartered in Toronto.[7]

A number of Canadian health and environmental organizations are working to ban Canadian exports of asbestos and lead products. Read more about their collective efforts at www.RightOnCanada.ca. Sign on to the petition to stop Dominion Colour Corporation’s manufacturing of lead-containing pigments at http://www.rightoncanada.ca/?p=300.

[1] See, for example, Asbestos Products Regulations, SOR/2007-260 and Surface Coating Materials Regulations, SOR/2005-109 of Canada Consumer Product Safety Act, SC 2010, c 21.

[2] World Health Organization, Chrysotile Asbestos (2014) at pp 1-2 , online: WHO <http://apps.who.int/iris/bitstream/10665/143649/1/9789241564816_eng.pdf?ua=1>.

[3] World Health Organization, “Exposure to Lead: A Major Public Health Concern” (2010), online: WHO <http://www.who.int/ipcs/features/lead..pdf?ua=1>.

[4] Canadian Environmental Health Atlas, “Asbestos Production in Canada” (2012), online: CEHA <http://www.ehatlas.ca/asbestos/trends/asbestos-production-canada-0>.

[5] Ibid.

[6] Occupational Knowledge International, “EU Ban on Lead Chromate Pigments Hits Road Block” (2015) 17 BEST News, online: OK International <http://www.okinternational.org/docs/BEST%20News%20Vol%2017.pdf>.

[7] Industry Canada, “Canadian Company Capabilities: Dominion Colour Corporation” (2015), online: Industry Canada <http://www.ic.gc.ca/app/ccc/srch/nvgt.do?lang=eng&prtl=1&sbPrtl=&estblmntNo=339389370000&profile=cmpltPrfl&profileId=1921&app=sold>.

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