OTTAWA — Jim Brophy can't understand why Canada isn’t immediately outlawing asbestos in automotive brake parts and other products.
It’s not as if the grave risks from exposure to the fibrous mineral haven’t been long known, says the workplace health expert. Nor is it a case that safer substitutes aren’t available.
Canada, once a leading producer of asbestos, announced in December it would join more than 50 other nations in prohibiting the import, export and use of the cancer-causing substance. In announcing the ban, Science Minister Kirsty Duncan cited “irrefutable evidence” of the dangers of asbestos.
Government officials have signalled, however, that the ban won’t take effect until late 2018 because of the need for a transition period to remove asbestos products from the market.
The consequence, according to Brophy, is that more people who work on or around asbestos will develop serious illnesses in coming years.
“The latency here is enormous,” says the University of Windsor adjunct professor and former director of the Occupational Health Clinics for Ontario Workers in Sarnia, Ont., a hotspot for asbestos disease.
“Every day we allow these products to come into the country just extends the time frame in which this disease will arrive and be experienced by people in our population.”
Asbestos disappeared from brakes, hood liners and other new car components in the 1990s, largely because of campaigns by auto assembly workers. But it has increasingly made its way back in imported replacement brake pads and shoes as a cheaper alternative to synthetic fibres.