Government of Canada to ban asbestos

Government-wide strategy will lead to a comprehensive ban to protect the health and safety of Canadians

OTTAWA, Dec. 15, 2016 /CNW/ - Today, the Honourable Kirsty Duncan, Minister of Science, along with the Honourable Jane Philpott, Minister of Health, the Honourable Catherine McKenna, Minister of Environment and Climate Change, and the Honourable Judy M. Foote, Minister of Public Services and Procurement, announced that the Government of Canada will move forward with a whole-of-government approach to fulfill its commitment to ban asbestos and asbestos-containing products by 2018.

The approach will be guided by science-based decision making and will be implemented in consultation with our partners. Canadians can be confident that the Government of Canada is making every effort to protect their health and safety, along with the health and safety of their families, co-workers and communities.

The comprehensive ban on asbestos will include:

  • creating new regulations that ban the manufacture, use, import and export of asbestos under the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999, the legislative framework that protects people from the risks associated with hazardous substances such as asbestos;
  • establishing new federal workplace health and safety rules that will drastically limit the risk of people coming into contact with asbestos on the job;
  • expanding the current online list of asbestos-containing buildings owned or leased by the Government of Canada;
  • working in collaboration with our provincial and territorial partners to change the national, provincial and territorial building codes to prohibit the use of asbestos in new construction and renovation projects across Canada;
  • updating our international position regarding the listing of asbestos as a hazardous material based on Canada's domestic ban before next year's meeting of parties to the Rotterdam Convention, an international treaty involving more than 150 countries that support listing asbestos as a hazard; and
  • raising awareness of the health impacts of asbestos to help reduce the incidence of lung cancer and other asbestos-related diseases.

The Government of Canada will work with the health, labour, trade and commercial sectors, among others, to fulfill its commitment to ban asbestos by 2018. The regulatory process will be open and inclusive and will allow for consultations with multiple stakeholders—including provinces, territories, communities, industry, scientists and health professionals—in advance of the ban being implemented. The result of the government's coordinated and comprehensive actions will ensure that the health and safety of Canadians is protected at home, at work and in their communities.

Quotes

"Protecting the health and safety of Canadians is of utmost importance to the government. There is irrefutable evidence that has led us to take concrete action to ban asbestos. Canadians can be confident my colleagues and I will continue to work hard to ensure their families, co-workers and communities will be protected from the harmful impacts of asbestos exposure so they may lead healthy, secure lives."
– The Honourable Kirsty Duncan, Minister of Science

"Across Canada and around the world, asbestos-related cancers continue to hurt Canadian families and pose a significant burden for our health care systems. Our government is taking action to protect Canadians from substances such as asbestos that can be harmful to their health and safety."
 – The Honourable Jane Philpott, Minister of Health

"The Prime Minister made a commitment to move forward on a ban on asbestos and asbestos-containing products in Canada. Today, we are delivering on that promise. We will put in place the best regulatory measures to protect the health and safety of Canadians as we move forward towards a complete ban on asbestos."
– The Honourable Catherine McKenna, Minister of Environment and Climate Change

"Our government took early action against asbestos by prohibiting its use in new Public Services and Procurement Canada buildings and creating a public inventory of buildings that contain asbestos that are owned or leased by PSPC. I am proud that we are building on these important first steps to prohibit the broader use of asbestos and taking a leadership role in extending our inventory to include all federal government buildings. We are committed to providing employees and the occupants and visitors of our buildings with safe and healthy environments."
– The Honourable Judy M. Foote, Minister of Public Services and Procurement

Quick facts

  • Asbestos was declared a human carcinogen by the World Health Organization's International Agency for Research on Cancer in 1987.
  • At the height of its use, asbestos was found in more than 3,000 applications worldwide; however, production and use have declined since the 1970s.
  • Effective April 1, 2016, the Government of Canada introduced a ban on the use of asbestos-containing materials in all new construction and renovation projects under the purview of Public Services and Procurement Canada (PSPC).
  • PSPC has published a National Asbestos Inventory of federal buildings containing asbestos that it owns or leases.
  • There are no significant health risks if materials containing asbestos in homes are tightly bound and left undisturbed.
  • The government participates in the Rotterdam Convention, whose objective is to protect human health and the environment by promoting informed decisions about the import and management of certain hazardous chemicals.

Related product

Backgrounder: New asbestos measures

Associated links

Health risks of asbestos (Health Canada)
National Asbestos Inventory (Public Services and Procurement Canada)

Follow Minister Duncan on social media.
Twitter: @ScienceMin 
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December 2016

Backgrounder

New Asbestos Measures

Asbestos is regulated by several federal and provincial laws and is also the subject of international conventions. The Government of Canada strictly conforms to the legislative requirements for health and safety, and asbestos management programs are in place in its buildings. 

Current federal controls focus on mining, high-risk consumer products and federal workplace exposure. The Government of Canada has completed an examination and will now implement a whole-of-government approach to further strengthen management and controls through a series of science-based actions, including a ban on asbestos and asbestos-containing products. This approach maps out an aggressive timeline to fulfill the government’s commitment to ban asbestos by 2018, and it builds on the actions taken to date to ban asbestos from Public Services and Procurement Canada’s new construction and renovation projects.

Environment and Climate Change Canada

Environment and Climate Change Canada will rapidly create a new regulation under the existing Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999 framework. This regulation will ban the manufacture, use, import and export of asbestos and asbestos-containing products. The government also supports the objective of the Rotterdam Convention, which is to protect human health and the environment by promoting informed decisions about the import and management of certain hazardous chemicals. Canada will review its position regarding the listing of chrysotile asbestos under the Rotterdam Convention ahead of the 8th Conference of the Parties, which will be held in the spring of 2017.

Health Canada

When it comes to asbestos, the science is clear. Breathing in airborne asbestos fibres can cause serious health problems, including cancer. Health Canada will collaborate with Environment and Climate Change Canada in developing a regulation under the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999. Health Canada will also continue to raise awareness about the health impacts of asbestos to help reduce the incidence of diseases such as lung cancer. 

Employment and Social Development Canada

Employment and Social Development Canada, through the Labour Program, is the lead on regulations that establish exposure limits and set requirements on employers for worker training and protection at federal workplaces. In the near future, the government will propose amendments to the Canada Occupational Health and Safety Regulations under the Canada Labour Code to prescribe a maximum level of exposure as well as requirements for storage, handling, education and labelling.

Public Services and Procurement Canada

An inventory of buildings containing asbestos that are owned and leased by Public Services and Procurement Canada was made public on September 23, 2016. The government will expand this inventory to include all federal buildings containing asbestos. We are committed to providing employees, occupants and visitors of federal government buildings with safe and healthy environments.

National Research Council

The government will also work with the Canadian Commission on Building and Fire Codes to remove asbestos references from the National Building Code of Canada, one of five national model codes that are published every five years by the National Research Council of Canada. The National Building Code of Canada sets out technical provisions for the design and construction of new buildings. The recently released 2015 code contained changes related to asbestos: in larger buildings, the Code prohibits the use of asbestos cement drain pipes; in smaller buildings, it prohibits the use of asbestos drain pipes and millwork. The Commission is currently working to remove the remaining asbestos references.

About asbestos

Asbestos is the common name for a group of naturally occurring minerals, all of which carry health risks. At the height of its use, asbestos was found in more than 3,000 applications worldwide, including roofing, thermal and electrical insulation, cement pipe and sheets, flooring, gaskets, friction materials (e.g. brake pads and shoes) and a variety of other materials. The production and use of asbestos have declined since 1970.  
Asbestos was declared a human carcinogen by the World Health Organization’s International Agency for Research on Cancer in 1987. The inhalation of airborne asbestos fibres can cause lung damage, including lung cancer, mesothelioma and asbestosis.

SOURCE Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada

For further information: Stefanie Power, Acting Press Secretary, Office of the Minister of Science, 343-291-2600; Media Relations, Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada, 343-291-1777, ic.mediarelations-mediasrelations.ic@canada.ca

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