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May 1, 2012

Canadian Chrysotile Institute closing its doors

by: Anne McGinness Kearse

I am excited to share that the Chrysotile Institute has officially notified the Canadian government of its intentions to close its doors. The Chrysotile Institute is a non-profit organization based in Montreal, Canada, whose tagline is “For the Safe and Responsible Use of Chrysotile.” The organization has, for decades, supported and promoted the safe use of chrysotile asbestos.

I commend the Asbestos Disease Awareness Organization (ADAO), which met with Canadian Embassy Officials in 2011 to address the hazards of asbestos, and the many others who continue to advocate for a worldwide asbestos ban. Such advocacy has undoubtedly played an integral role in the closing of the Chrysotile Institute, and my hope is that the end to this powerful pro-asbestos organization foreshadows the closing of similar organizations around the world that continue to produce asbestos or promote “safe” asbestos use.

The dangers of asbestos are far from being a problem of the past. In fact, they continue to be a global health and environmental concern. Despite the fact that the International Agency for Research on Cancer declared asbestos to be a human carcinogen decades ago, only 55 countries have banned asbestos. Europe banned asbestos in 2005, and numerous other western nations have followed in its footsteps. The United States and Canada are the glaring exceptions, and, due to the demand for building materials and a lack of safety regulations, asbestos production remains ongoing in many developing countries such as India and Brazil.

The closing of the Chrysotile Institute is a promising step towards globally eradicating asbestos use and, as stated by the ADAO, “signals a momentous step towards the cessation of the mining and exportation of asbestos in Canada, and symbolizes a promising future for the effort to globally protect public health.”

Asbestos, in any form, is a known human carcinogen, and the World Health Organization estimates that more than 100,000 people worldwide lose their lives from asbestos-related diseases each year, including mesothelioma, asbestos-related lung cancer and asbestosis. It is crucial for us to remember that, although we now have yet another victory to celebrate, many similar organizations still exist. We should celebrate this victory while keeping in mind that the war against asbestos is far from over and continues to demand our attention.