Six minerals are defined as “asbestos” in two different classes. In Canada only the serpentine class has been mined. The serpentine class includes only the fibrous mineral chrysotile. It is more flexible and has a wider range of uses because of that quality. Chrysotile is white. It is argued by the Canadian industry and its supporters that chrysotile or “white asbestos” is less dangerous than the minerals in the other class of asbestos known as the amphibole class. With chrysotile many of the uses tend to result in the asbestos fibers being on the inside of building materials where there is less direct exposure to the fibers for possible inhalation. The danger is less in some situations but it is not accurate to simply say chrysotile is less deadly.
The amphibole class is made up of crystal forms and includes the minerals amosite, crocidolite, tremolite, anthophyllite and actinolite. The amphibole forms are usually blue or brown. There is an important distinction to be made between serpentine and amphibole asbestos due to differences in their chemical composition. Blue asbestos is sprayed on with many uses and as such blue asbestos in such use more brittle and more likely to break off into the air for inhalation. Brown asbestos tends to be used for fireproofing boards and wall and with such use tends to be painted over or covered which reduces the danger. It is often said that blue asbestos is the most dangerous and blue asbestos is no longer mined. Asbestos in all forms of asbestos (including chrysotile asbestos) are known to be human carcinogens.
The chart above shows that in 2010 the bulk of Canada’s asbestos exports were to less developed countries. More than half goes to India. Asbestos use is banned completely in most developed countries where there is education about the dangers of asbestos. Developed countries have the ability to ensure that asbestos is handled with reasonable safety but even then it is far from safe. Where Canada’s asbestos is sent there is almost no knowledge, education or ability to ensure that asbestos is handled with any safeguards at all on arrival. Canadian asbestos is in the white fibrous form Chrysotile and the false argument is made that it is safe while the dangerous asbestos is blue asbestos that does not come from Canada. Is Canada exporting death to the poor people of the world? Do we have a moral responsibility? How do you feel about this? Your comments here are invited but also let the Governments of Canada and Quebec know how you feel.
Open Pit Mining with no thought of safety or protection
Here we will provide information about the miners and the danger they faced in Canada for over a century in the open pit asbestos mines. The modern asbestos mining methods are far more protective to the miners with education and high safety standards. Canadian asbestos is the white fibrous variety known as Chrysotile. Miners and others have been incorrectly told that white asbestos is safe and that only blue asbestos is dangerous. Modern asbestos mining in Canada is done with extreme safeguards.
The asbestos industry in Canada has been supported by an organization called The Chrysotile Institute based in Montreal for many years. It was founded in 1984 (a perfect year for such an Orwellian organization to begin) and was originally called the Asbestos Institute. It was most recently funded by the Quebec Government. The Institute closed at the end of April 2012 with no public explanation given. The office in Montreal was quietly vacated April 5th with no forwarding address or phone number. On April 28th notice was posted in the Canada Gazette of intention to surrender its federal corporate charter. It no longer exists. The institute had been the leading source of asbestos disinformation around the world. It suggests that Chrysotile, the white form of asbestos mined in Canada, is safer than blue or other types of asbestos and it is okay to use with modest safety precautions. An example of their message that asbestos is good and minimizing the danger of it, is the following quote:
“Scientific and medical research has revealed that excessive exposure to inhaled asbestos dust can be dangerous to health. It should be noted, however, that the risks are generally related to exposure during handling of asbestos fibres in work environment.”
This quote and other false and dangerous information can still be found at www.chrysotile.com the website for the institute. Although the institute has abruptly ceased operations and closed, the website can be found online but hopefully it too will disappear. The misinformation campaign of the asbestos industry continues without it. Help us spread the truth and save lives in Canada and around the world.