Jeffrey Mine In July 2011, I travelled to Asbestos, Quebec, Canada and visited three chrysotile (white asbestos) mines for the first time. Decades of studies reaffirm the science and facts that asbestos is a known human carcinogen and there is no safe level of asbestos exposure; however, Canada continues to allow this deadly fiber to be mined and exported to developing nations.

Laurie Kazan-Allen of International Ban Asbestos Secretariat just released incredible new documents proving members of the Canadian government played a significant role in the overturning of the 1989 United States American Asbestos Ban and Phase-out Rule (ABPR). “Canadian authorities, from the Prime Minister down, colluded with industry representatives to overturn the U.S. ban on asbestos in order to protect the Canadian asbestos industry,” said Ms. Kazan-Allen. “The fact that, even 20 years on, the Governments of Ottawa and Quebec are still fronting for this deadly industry is a national disgrace.”

For too long, loopholes have been found in the U.S. legal system by lobbyists in order to protect industry interests, and the Canadian asbestos industry is no different. These tactics, highlighted in a Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) report on how the chemical industry ducks regulation of the most toxic substances, have earned the nickname the Four Dog Defense for their uncanny similarity to the responses an owner of a potentially dangerous dog would give if confronted with damning evidence. First giving an outright denial, industry officials attempt to show their product does no harm. Then, industry officials admit there may be a problem, but it is one that does not affect you specifically. Next, they concede that you have been affected, but not harmed by their product. Lastly, industry admits that their product has affected you and caused harm, but that it is through no fault of theirs.

Within the NRDC Report, the tragic story of Marilyn Amento losing her late husband Joe to asbestos is highlighted as an example of how industry lobbyists have scored a victory in their eyes by defeating the EPA in court and allowing the continued use of asbestos to go on. Because of this ruling, while no longer mined in the United States, products containing asbestos continue to be imported resulting in the death of ten thousand Americans each year.

During my visit to three Quebec asbestos mines, I was shocked and saddened to see tons upon tons of chrysotile pilings that were as high as mountains. Worse yet, I can only imagine the tons of asbestos that continues to be mined and exported to developing nations, as well as here in the United States. The mines continue to operate even in the face of increasing opposition to the asbestos industry by Canadian citizens and advocacy groups.

It is reprehensible that the United States still imports hundreds of metric tons of chrysotile asbestos every year.  The U.S. Geological Survey reported in 2010 that all the asbestos used in the United States was chrysotile and 90% comes from Canada.

Despite over a hundred years of asbestos mining and the overwhelming medical data linking asbestos exposure with a host of fatal diseases, lack of awareness about the dangers of asbestos is still prevalent in Canada and around the world due in part to the efforts of industry lobbyists who have nothing but financial interests at heart.

In unity,