Canada's long-awaited ban on asbestos in brake shoes and other products will start sometime in 2019, according to proposed regulations released Jan. 5.
The federal government laid out a tough set of proposed new regulations to prohibit the use, sale, import and export of asbestos and products that contain it, as well as the manufacture of products containing the cancer-causing mineral.
It is expected that automotive stakeholders would comply with the proposed regulations by switching from imports of friction materials containing asbestos to asbestos-free friction materials, such as ceramic brake pads or materials with synthetic fibres, the government says.
Using average import data from 2013 to 2016 for friction materials containing asbestos, the government estimates that 333,000 brake pads containing asbestos are imported on an annual basis.
“Assuming that there is a $5 incremental difference in price between brake pads containing asbestos and asbestos-free brake pads, it is expected that the automotive industry would carry operating costs of approximately $21 million over the time frame of analysis,” reads a government report.
The government says the auto industry has indicated that automotive mechanics and their employers may not be aware that asbestos could be contained in brake pads and may not be taking the necessary precautions needed when working with products containing asbestos.
The government estimates administrative costs could reach $34 million for government and the auto and construction sectors over a 17-year period. However, preventing just five cases of lung cancer or mesothelioma a year would provide a net social benefit, it said.
FULFILLING A PROMISE
The rules fulfil a Liberal promise made more than a year ago and complement proposals the government issued last spring.
Asbestos is a carcinogen that has been condemned by the World Health Organization and is banned in about 50 countries around the world.
The new rules replace looser regulations that allowed brake shoes and other products containing the cancer-causing mineral to slip into Canada from Russia, China and other countries that still mine asbestos.
The government says that with some minor exceptions, the proposed regulations and related amendments — published in the latest edition of the Canada Gazette — would ensure there is no market for asbestos and related products in Canada, and that it isn't being brought into the country.
The government is asking the public and industry for feedback during a comment period, which ends March 22.
Asbestos was mined in Canada until 2011 and was used mainly for insulating buildings and homes, as well as for fireproofing.
Many uses have been phased out, but asbestos may still be found in a variety of products, including cement pipes, industrial furnaces and heating systems, building insulation, automotive brake pads and clutches.
STOCKPILES TO BE DESTROYED
The use or sale of any asbestos-containing products that exist in inventories but that have not yet been installed would be prohibited under the new regulations. Any stockpiled asbestos-related materials would need to be disposed of or destroyed.
Asbestos is also used in the chlor-alkali industry as part of cell diaphragms used as filters in the manufacture of chlorine and caustic soda. That application will be exempted from the ban until 2025, giving the industry time to phase out the existing systems.
The clean-up of millions of tonnes of asbestos residue around former mine sites will also be exempt from the regulations, to allow for the use of the material in redevelopment of the areas.
Scientists would still be allowed to study asbestos under another exemption and asbestos or objects containing asbestos could still be imported for display in a museum.
The government said it initially considered a complete prohibition on asbestos. However, after decades of use, many buildings and homes still contain asbestos, the health risks of which are low if the products, such as insulation, remain undisturbed.
Removing all asbestos would be "extremely costly" and might actually lead to greater health risks, the government said. For those reasons, the total prohibition option was rejected.
Environment Minister Catherine McKenna said many Canadians have suffered from exposure to asbestos over the years, but that will end.
"By launching these new, tougher rules to stop the manufacture, import, use, and sale of asbestos, we are following through on our promise to protect all Canadians from exposure to this toxic substance," McKenna said in a statement.
The Canadian Press and Rob Bostelaar of Automotive News Canada contributed to this report.