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Politician says Canadian an ‘international pariah’ for selling asbestos

August 25th, 2005

A Canadian Member of Parliament says that Canada is an “international pariah” for continuing to sell asbestos in spite of its proven health risks. Pat Martin is calling for a global ban on the sale, production or use of asbestos, saying that Canada’s continued production of the mineral has put both the nation and the world in danger.

“This terrible, toxic substance is all around us and the government has its head in the sand for the sake of a few jobs in Quebec,” Martin says, speaking of the province where most of Canada’s asbestos is mined. “They refuse to acknowledge that there’s no safe level of exposure. It reaffirms my commitment that asbestos in all its forms should be banned.”

Although asbestos use is extremely restricted in Canada, the country remains the world’s largest asbestos producer, exporting most of what it mines to developing countries in Asia and other regions of the world. “We spend millions of dollars subsidizing the industry and promoting it in the third world,” Martin says. “It’s our greatest shame for dumping asbestos in the third world, and we’re international pariahs for it.”

Martin’s remarks came soon after an announcement by another MP, Chuck Strahl, who says that he recently received a mesothelioma diagnosis. Mesothelioma is a deadly form of cancer—caused by inhaling airborne asbestos fibers—that can attack the chest, heart or abdomen. Strahl says that he contracted mesothelioma from working as a logger more than two decades ago. After feeling sick with what he thought was the flu, Strahl went to the doctor in the Summer of 2005 and was given a mesothelioma diagnosis. Because of its long latency period, victims of asbestos exposure often go 20 to 50 years before they begin to show any mesothelioma symptoms.

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