Canada Needs Public Registry of Buildings Containing Asbestos

Majority of Canadians Say Federal Government Should Take Action

TORONTO, Oct. 18, 2012 /CNW/ - The majority of Canadians - 82% - are sending a clear message that a public registry of buildings containing asbestos, including private homes, is important and 78% say it's the responsibility of the federal government to create one, according to poll results released today by the Canadian Cancer Society.

With this firm backing from Canadians, the Canadian Cancer Society and the Canadian Medical Association have joined forces in urging the federal government to establish one central public registry of all buildings in Canada that contain asbestos. The registry should be free, easily accessible and include privately owned buildings, buildings on aboriginal lands and government-owned structures.

"We know all forms of asbestos cause cancer and creating a public registry is a crucial first step in making sure Canadians are not exposed to this harmful substance," says Dan Demers, Director, Public Issues, Canadian Cancer Society. "Once it's known that a building contains asbestos then appropriate action can be taken to protect people from this substance."

From the 1920s to 1990s, asbestos was used as insulation and sound proofing in buildings throughout Canada. It is estimated that 240,000 homes across the country were insulated with materials that might contain asbestos, but the public can't find out which buildings contain the asbestos and the list may not be complete. Not knowing which buildings contain asbestos means that workers can be exposed to the substance during demolition or renovations and homeowners don't know if they need to take steps to protect themselves from the substance. Extended and frequent exposure to asbestos is associated with lung cancer and mesothelioma (a rare cancer of the lining of the chest or abdominal cavity).

"Asbestos, when inhaled, can cause lung cancer and other painful, fatal diseases that may not appear until years after exposure," says Dr. Anna Reid, President of the Canadian Medical Association. "This is why the CMA fully supports the creation of a public registry of asbestos-containing buildings and further measures to increase awareness of the impact of this dangerous substance. We owe Canadians at least this much."

Poll results also reveal that:

  • Almost half of Canadians - 46% - know nothing or only a little about how to protect themselves from exposure to asbestos. Only 21 % say they know a lot.
  • A large majority of Canadians - 94% - say the federal government should be responsible for ensuring Canadians understand the risk of asbestos and for informing them about how they can protect themselves from this substance.

"It's clear Canadians believe the federal government has an important role to inform them about the risk of asbestos and to protect them from the substance," says Paul Lapierre, Vice-President, Public Affairs and Cancer Control, Canadian Cancer Society. "Armed with this knowledge, we will be advocating to make sure the government accepts its responsibility of protecting Canadians from the health hazards of asbestos."

Worldwide about 107,000 people die annually from disease related to occupation exposure to asbestos. The Canadian Cancer Society believes all efforts must be made to end exposure to asbestos. The Society has been advocating since 2007 for the federal government to adopt a comprehensive strategy to address all aspects of the asbestos issue, including:

  • immediately setting a clear timetable for  phasing out the use and export of asbestos
  • implementing a national surveillance system to track health outcomes of people who have been exposed to asbestos
  • creating a public registry of buildings that contain asbestos
  • providing transition support for affected communities
  • including chrysotile on the Rotterdam Convention's Prior Informed Consent list

The Society cautions Canadians that if they know they have asbestos in their homes that needs to be removed they should hire a professional contractor experienced in asbestos removal. Homeowners should not attempt to remove the substance themselves.

The poll results are based on a telephone survey conducted by the Environics Research Group with a representative sample of 1,000 Canadians (18 years and older) between September 10 and 15, 2012. The margin of error for a sample of this size is plus or minus 3.1 percentage points, 19 times out of 20.

The Canadian Cancer Society fights cancer by doing everything we can to prevent cancer, save lives and support people living with cancer. Join the fight! Go to fightback.ca to find out how you can help. When you want to know more about cancer, visit our website at cancer.ca or call our toll-free bilingual Cancer Information Service at 1 888 939-3333; TTY, 1 866 786-3934.

The Canadian Medical Association (CMA) is the national voice of Canadian physicians. Founded in 1867, the CMA is a voluntary professional organization representing more than 76,000 of Canada's physicians and comprising 12 provincial and territorial medical associations and 51 national medical organizations. CMA's mission is to serve and unite the physicians of Canada and be the national advocate, in partnership with the people of Canada, for the highest standards of health and health care.

For more info contact:

Alexa Giorgi
Bilingual Communications Specialist
Canadian Cancer Society
alexa.giorgi@cancer.ca
416 934-5338

Lucie Boileau
Senior Advisor, Communications and Public Outreach
Canadian Medical Association
Tel.: 800-663-7336 or 613-731-8610 ext. 1266

Media backgrounder for release: Canada Needs Public Registry of Buildings Containing Asbestos

Minimizing the risk of asbestos exposure at home

If homeowners know they have asbestos in their homes that needs to be removed, they should hire a professional contractor experienced in asbestos removal. Homeowners should NEVER attempt to remove the substance themselves.

If your home has asbestos, the best way to minimize risk of asbestos exposure is to avoid disturbing asbestos-based insulation in any way. If asbestos-based insulation is contained and not exposed to the home or interior environment, it poses very little risk.

If you know you have asbestos insulation in your attic, take these precautionary steps:

  • Make sure anyone working in the attic knows about the presence of asbestos. Do not let children play in an attic with open areas of asbestos insulation.
  • Do not use the attic for storage if retrieving items from it may disturb the insulation.
  • If you must go into the attic, walk on boards in order to minimize disturbance of the insulation and use an appropriate respirator mask. Common dust masks are not effective against asbestos fibres.  Do not remain in the attic any longer than is necessary.
  • If you have asbestos insulation and you decide to have it removed, speak to trained and qualified asbestos removal professionals. They can be found by looking up experts in "asbestos abatement /removal." NEVER attempt to remove the insulation yourself.
  • If you plan to remodel or renovate - for instance, by re-insulating your attic - in a manner that would disturb the asbestos, speak to professionals who are trained and qualified to handle asbestos removal before proceeding with the work to be done.
  • Seal all cracks and holes in the ceilings of the rooms below the insulation (for example, by applying caulking around light fixtures and the attic hatch) to prevent insulation sifting through.
  • If you suspect you have asbestos insulation in your walls, as a precautionary step, seal all cracks and holes. For example, apply caulking around window and door frames, along baseboards and around electrical outlets.

What to do if you suspect you have been exposed to asbestos

Asbestos-related illnesses are usually associated with frequent and prolonged exposure to asbestos. The time it takes to develop a disease from exposure to asbestos is usually long - up to decades. If you have concerns about exposure to asbestos you can take these steps:

  • Talk to your health care provider
  • Avoid or minimize further exposure to any form of asbestos
  • Stop smoking and avoid second hand tobacco smoke and other irritants that could affect your lungs. Exposure to cigarette smoke and asbestos greatly increases your chances of developing lung cancer.

Source: Health Canada. For more information: http://www.hc-sc.gc.ca/hl-vs/iyh-vsv/prod/insulation-isolant-eng.php#mi

Canadian Cancer Society information about asbestos: http://www.cancer.ca/Canada-wide/Prevention/Harmful%20substances%20and%20environmental%20risks/Asbestos.aspx?sc_lang=en

The Canadian Cancer Society fights cancer by doing everything we can to prevent cancer, save lives and support people living with cancer. When you want to know more about cancer, visit our website at cancer.ca or call our toll-free bilingual Cancer Information Service at 1 888 939-3333; TTY, 1 866 786-3934.

The Canadian Medical Association (CMA) is the national voice of Canadian physicians. Founded in 1867, the CMA is a voluntary professional organization representing more than 76,000 of Canada's physicians and comprising 12 provincial and territorial medical associations and 51 national medical organizations. CMA's mission is to serve and unite the physicians of Canada and be the national advocate, in partnership with the people of Canada, for the highest standards of health and health care.

SOURCE: Canadian Cancer Society (National Office)

For further information:

Alexa Giorgi
Bilingual Communications Specialist
Canadian Cancer Society
alexa.giorgi@cancer.ca
416-934-5338

Lucie Boileau
Senior Advisor, Communications and Public Outreach
Canadian Medical Association
Tel.: 800-663-7336 or 613-731-8610 ext. 1266


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