In inexplicable move, Quebec plans to reopen world's largest asbestos mineEvery credible public health authority agrees that asbestos exposure causes lung scarring, asbestosis and malignant pleural mesothelioma (MPM). The World Health Organization (WHO), which estimates that 125 million people are still exposed to asbestos each year, is adamant that the mineral must be banned worldwide. U.S. and Canadian health officials agree.
Yet, according to the Globe and Mail, the Canadian province of Quebec has just made a deal to reopen the world's largest asbestos mine - the Jeffrey Mine, located in the town of Asbestos - with the aid of a $58 million public loan.
Mine will export more than ever
According to the Center for Public Integrity, the mine's owner, Bernard Coulombe, has made a truly baffling promise. If given the money to reopen it (which he now has been), Coulombe said that the Jeffrey mine would rev up to a record-high asbestos output, producing and exporting 220,000 tons of the cancer-causing mineral each year.
For reference, in 2009, before it temporarily closed, the mine produced 169,000 tons of asbestos for export, mainly to developing Asian nations.
Coulombe is no newcomer to making controversial proclamations. Last year, he told the New York Times that the kind of fibers mined in the Jeffrey, called chrysotile asbestos, is not harmful at all. (Perhaps unsurprisingly, Coulombe is the president of the nonprofit lobbying group The Chrysotile Institute.)
"The people against us in the medical community, they know nothing about chrysotile," he told the newspaper. "We show our opponents all sorts of studies done over the last 25 years all around the world that demonstrate that there is no problem working with chrysotile. But they don't take that into account. They say 'It's a carcinogen, it's a carcinogen, it's a carcinogen.'"
And it is a carcinogen...
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and the WHO both agree that all forms of asbestos cause MPM and other lethal cancers. Numerous studies support this position. Yet Health Canada - the nation's version of the HHS - mysteriously, states that "it is generally accepted" - by whom, it does not specify - "that chrysotile asbestos is less potent and does less damage to the lungs than the amphiboles [the other major fiber type]."
Why the unusual position on a known carcinogen?
In his article for the Globe and Mail, writer Gerald Caplan suggests that Canadian mining interests and the nation's government are hopelessly intertwined. He pointed to Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper, who reportedly donated $50,000 a year to the Chrysotile Institute.
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Massachusetts school custodians learn about asbestos exposure, http://www.wickedlocal.com/norwell/news/x2105847083/Norwell-participates-in-asbestos-awareness-training#axzz2Ese9TA66, 12/14/12
Experts question integrity of asbestos exposure reports, international collaboration, https://www.rightoncanada.ca/?p=1761, 12/14/12
Northern Ireland campaign will educate tradespeople, others about asbestos exposure, http://m.u.tv/news/300-NI-asbestos-deaths-in-five-years/e3426c38-0a85-47ff-b68f-3e2d4fbbe3cd, 12/11/12