The Canadian government will ban the “manufacture, use, import and export” of asbestos-containing products — including brake pads — by 2018.
That makes Rick Jamieson a happy man as the decision comes hard on the heels of his recent ABS Asbestos Offensive campaign to ban the importa-tion of asbestos-laced brake pads.
“This news was most heartening to us,” said Jamieson, president and CEO of Guelph, Ont.-based brake pad manufacturer ABS Friction. “While the ban is long overdue, we are thankful it is finally going to happen. We have twice seen ‘ban asbestos’ private-member bills reach second reading, only to stall for one reason or another.”
The ban of the cancer-causing material comes after lengthy campaigns not only by ABS Friction but others including Unifor, the country’s largest private-sector union representing Canadian autoworkers, and the Automotive Recyclers of Canada (ARC).
Although asbestos mining ended in Canada in 2011, import and export of asbestos was allowed, despite bans by 58 other countries such as Australia,Japan, Sweden and Britain.
“For years, Unifor has been fighting for this ban as a first step, and while we’ve stopped future use, the government must continue to work to address the damage that has already been done,” said Unifor National President Jerry Dias.
By removing asbestos from braking systems, the new legislation also addresses a health risk to employees of more than 400 vehicle-recycling companies and dismantlers who handle about 1.6 million end-of-life vehicles a year in Canada.
Steve Fletcher, managing director of ARC said, “For an auto recycler there is no way to know whether a brake pad contains asbestos or not.”
When pads need to be removed “there is inevitably going to be some release of asbestos particulate into the air.” Fletcher added the announcement is “a tremendous step forward. This policy change could not have come soon enough.”
Asbestos is by far the top on-the-job killer in Canada, accounting for almost 5,000 death claims since 1996, according to Statistics Canada. But that doesn’t reflect the true scope of its effects; it may take 20 to 50 years after exposure to materialize.
“We have seen the effect of asbestos exposure first hand on mechanics and auto trades people,” said Joe Schmidt, Director of Research and Development and co-founder, ABS Friction. As a Canadian manufacturer who has made asbestos-free brake pads since its beginning 20 years ago, “it’s time to put this issue to bed.”
In addition to banning asbestos, Jamieson is also urging the government to ban chromium, mercury, copper, cadmium, lead and zinc for their toxic properties.