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Canada silent on proposal to restrict asbestos exports

June 17th, 2011

The Canadian government is declining to state its position on asbestos exports in the lead-up to an international conference that may place new restrictions on the sale of the hazardous material. On June 20, a four-day United Nations conference will meet to begin deciding whether new international limitation on the export of asbestos should be enacted. Canada is one of the world’s leaders in asbestos exports.

According to Canadian officials, the government is still preparing its official position for the conference. Anti-asbestos campaigners have predicted that Canada will continue to support keeping the mineral off the United Nations list of hazardous materials, which would place barriers in the way of the nation’s ability to export asbestos to other countries.

The UN’s scientific committee has recommended that asbestos be added to the groups list of “Annex III” substances. Under these rules, exporters of asbestos would be required to inform other nations of the hazards of listed products. These nations would have the right to refuse to allow hazardous materials if they believe they cannot be handled safely.

Canada has blocked UN attempts to place international restrictions on the export of asbestos at conferences in 2006 and 2008. Although Canada allows asbestos to be exported to foreign countries, it has placed strong restriction on how the mineral can be used within Canada due to the negative health effects associated with asbestos exposure.

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