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Canada takes final steps to ban Asbestos

by Paul Manning, Manning Environmental Law

Environment and Climate Change Canada, along with Health Canada, published the Prohibition of Asbestos and Products Containing Asbestos Regulations in the Canada Gazette, Part II on October 17, 2018.

These new regulations apply to any person who manufactures, imports, sells or uses asbestos or products containing asbestos.

Thetford, Quebec open pit asbestos mine

The regulations prohibit the import, sale and use of all forms of asbestos as well as the manufacture, import, sale and use of products containing asbestos, with a limited number of exclusions:

  • ongoing exclusions for
    • the transfer of physical possession or control of asbestos or a product containing asbestos to allow its disposal
    • the re-use of asbestos in existing road infrastructure into new road infrastructure or in asbestos mining site restoration
    • the import, sale or use of military equipment serviced overseas with a product containing asbestos if there were no technically or economically feasible asbestos-free alternatives available
    • the import, sale or use of asbestos and products containing asbestos for display in a museum or for use in a laboratory
  • exclusions until
    • December 31, 2022 for the import, sale or use of products containing asbestos to service equipment in nuclear facilities, or to service military equipment, if there are no technically or economically feasible asbestos-free alternatives available,
    • December 31, 2029 for the import and use of asbestos for chlor-alkali facilities using asbestos diaphragm technology

The regulations include:

  • permit provisions for unforeseen circumstances where asbestos or a product containing asbestos is used to protect human health or the environment, if there is no technically or economically feasible asbestos-free alternative available
  • permit provisions for the import and use of products containing asbestos to service military equipment and equipment in a nuclear facility, if there is no technically or economically feasible asbestos-free alternative available
  • provisions requiring the submission of reports from museums, laboratories, and military, nuclear and chlor-alkali facilities, as well as permit holders, who import, use or display asbestos or products containing asbestos. The preparation and implementation of an asbestos management plan is also required in most cases

The regulations do not apply to:

  • asbestos integrated into a structure or infrastructure before the day on which the Regulations come into force (such as asbestos integrated into buildings and civil engineering works), or to products containing asbestos used before the day on which the regulations come into force (such as equipment installed in a facility, vehicles, ships, and airplanes)
  • asbestos and products containing asbestos in transit through Canada
  • mining residues, except for certain high risk activities which are prohibited, including:
  • the sale of asbestos mining residues for use in construction and landscaping activities, unless authorized by the province, and
  • the use of asbestos mining residues to manufacture a product that contains asbestos

In addition to these regulations, the existing Export of Substances on the Export Control List Regulations (ESECLR) and Schedule 3 to the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999 were amended to prohibit exports of asbestos, with a limited number of exceptions.  These provisions ensure that Canada continues to meet its export obligations under international conventions, including the Rotterdam Convention. The regulations and related amendments to the ESECLR come into force on December 30, 2018.

This article is republished and first appeared on the Manning Environmental Law website.

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About the Author

Paul Manning is the principal of Manning Environmental Law and an environmental law specialist certified by the Law Society of Upper Canada. Paul has been selected as one of the world’s leading Environmental Lawyers by Who’s Who Legal: 2016.

Paul advises clients on a wide range of environmental law issues and represents them as counsel before tribunals and the courts. His practice focuses on environmental, energy, planning and Aboriginal law.

Paul holds a Masters degree in Environmental Law and obtained an accreditation in the UK as an expert in Planning Law. He is on the Executive Committee of the National Environmental, Energy and Resources Law Section of the Canadian Bar Association. Paul has a special interest in renewable energy and climate change regulation and holds a Certificate in Carbon Finance from the University of Toronto.

Canadian ban on asbestos and asbestos containing products

In the same week the cannabis became legal in Canada, the federal government announced the prohibition of asbestos and asbestos-containing products.  The government action is considered the final step in the prohibition of asbestos and asbestos-containing products in Canada.

These new regulations are part of the government-wide strategy announced in 2016 to protect Canadians from exposure to asbestos. The new regulations prohibit the import, sale, and use of asbestos as well as the manufacture, import, sale, and use of asbestos-containing products, with a limited number of exclusions.

In addition, exports of asbestos and asbestos-containing products are now prohibited, with a limited number of exceptions, and the existing Export of Substances on the Export Control List Regulations and schedule 3 of the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999 were amended to reflect that.

The new regulations and related amendments will come into force on December 30, 2018.  They will protect the health of Canadians by preventing new asbestos and asbestos-containing products from entering the Canadian market.

“This is the final step to ban asbestos in Canada.  We have followed through on our promise to deliver new, tougher rules to stop the import, use, sale, and export of asbestos in Canada. These measures will protect our communities and the health and safety of all Canadians,” stated Catherine McKenna in a news release.

Quick facts

Asbestos was declared a human carcinogen by the World Health Organization’s International Agency for Research on Cancer, in 1987.  At the height of its use, asbestos was found in more than 3,000 applications worldwide.

The regulations do not apply to residues left from mining asbestos.  However, these asbestos-mining residues cannot be sold for use in construction or landscaping without provincial authorization, and they cannot be used to make a product that contains asbestos. The mining of asbestos in Canada ceased in 2011.

Risks related to asbestos-containing products that are already in use or installed—such as in existing buildings, equipment, and vehicles—will continue to be managed by existing federal, provincial, and municipal rules and regulations. There are no significant health risks if asbestos fibres are enclosed or tightly bound, in good condition, and left undisturbed.

The use, sale, and export of any asbestos-containing products that exist in inventories but that have not yet been installed are prohibited under the new regulations and related amendments.

The current Asbestos Products Regulations under the Canada Consumer Product Safety Act will be repealed as these new regulations are more comprehensive.

Mesothelioma Awareness: Asbestos and Occupational Safety

by Sarah Wallace, Mesothelioma + Asbestos Awareness Center

For many years, the natural mineral known as asbestos was used in constructing buildings, insulation, roofing, and homes. Asbestos is heavily regulated in the United States today, but many people are still exposed daily to asbestos containing materials (ACMs) that still exist in buildings, structures, and homes. During demolition, DIY, or renovation projects, asbestos can become friable and people are then susceptible to inhaling the small fibers. When asbestos becomes lodged in the body, specifically in the lining of the lungs, abdomen, or heart, it can lead to lung cancer or mesothelioma.

Even though the use of asbestos has decreased dramatically in the United States since the late 20th century, mesothelioma is still the leading occupational cancer. This is because the disease can take up to 50 years to develop, and those who were exposed to asbestos prior to the 1980s are still being diagnosed today. On top of that, professionals who work in different industries that have a history of asbestos use, such as construction, manufacturing, and shipyard work, are still at risk of exposure they may come into contact with materials and products made before regulations were put in place. Due to the microscopic size of asbestos fibers and ambiguity around where the toxin could have been used in the past, it’s important for workers to stay educated on where asbestos might be hiding and what safety precautions to take on the job.

Occupations most at risk and how to stay safe:

Construction Workers– Because asbestos was used heavily in the construction of homes and other buildings, many construction workers have been exposed to asbestos, and they are still at risk for exposure. With ACMs still existing in buildings, approximately 1 million construction workers could still be vulnerable to asbestos annually. Today, professionals in the construction industry are at risk for first-hand exposure more than any other profession. Workers in multiple trades including roofers, carpenters, electricians, and masonry should be aware of asbestos as they work.

In order for workers to protect themselves, professionals in these fields should take the precaution of wearing the proper masks during any type of construction project. Understanding the age of the building and what asbestos looks like is also important because this could help workers know the risks associated with a certain structure, making them less vulnerable to exposure. Keep in mind that asbestos can exist in a variety of products including drywall, shingles, ceiling tiles, and insulation, so even those participating in DIY projects should be aware of where their health and safety could be at risk.

Firefighters– Asbestos fibers can be released into the air when a building or home catches on fire. This puts first responders like firefighters in danger of inhaling the toxin in the process of putting out a fire. This leaves firefighters at risk to develop peritoneal mesothelioma, which originates in the lining of the lungs after being inhaled.  While the initial danger to firefighters is the fire itself, even after the flames are put out, asbestos could be present in the air as the structure cools off. Firefighter equipment is designed to keep out hazardous materials like asbestos, but many people do not understand that certain risks persist even after the initial fire is put out. Asbestos fibers can attach to clothing, leading to the possibility of second-hand exposure for those who might come in contact with any type of clothing used at the scene of the fire.

In order to limit exposure to asbestos particles, firefighters should wear a certified self-containing breathing apparatus (SCBA) mask that covers the mouth and nose in order to protect themselves while on the job. They should also keep masks on even after the fire has been put out while debris is cooling, because asbestos fibers could still be in the air. To eliminate risks of exposure for family, friends, and colleagues, firefighters should also remove their gear before leaving the scene and wash off before returning home.

 Shipyard Workers– At one time, asbestos exposure was a large risk for laborers and those employed on ships. Due to the mineral’s strong and heat resistant attributes, was often used for things like boilers and steam pipes on Navy ships and shipyards. As a result, many shipyard laborers were exposed to asbestos, especially if they worked as electricians, painters, machinists, or “asbestos insulators.” This is one of the reasons veterans make up about 30 percent of mesothelioma diagnoses in the United States.

Shipyard workers are less likely to be exposed first-hand to asbestos today, but anyone working with older shipbuilding materials or piping should be aware of the possible risks and wear the appropriate masks to limit inhaling fibers. Workers who have been exposed in the past should let their primary care doctor know and stay up-to-date on appointments. Symptoms of mesothelioma specifically can often go undiagnosed because they are similar to symptoms of the flu, manifesting as a cough at first and eventually leading to shortness of breath and fever. If you know that you have been exposed, paying careful attention to your health and communicating with your doctor could lead to an early diagnosis, improving prognosis and life expectancy.

Preventing asbestos-related disease

 If you come across asbestos on the job, contacting a professional who knows how to handle the material will be the best way to move forward. No amount of asbestos exposure is safe, and handling the mineral should be taken seriously before proceeding with a project. Mesothelioma is a deadly but preventable cancer, if the correct steps are taken by employers and employees. Although asbestos has been heavily regulated over time, there is still not a ban on the material in the United States. Taking the time to check labels before using any products and educating others in your industry on how to protect themselves are sure ways to help bring an end to mesothelioma and other health issues caused by asbestos.

 

Asbestos & Disaster Relief Precautions

By Alison Grimes, MAA Center

2017 has proven to be an unfortunate memorable year of natural disasters.  Across the globe, countries including Afghanistan, China, Colombia, The Democratic Republic of the Congo Mexico, Peru, Sierra Leone, South Asia, Sri Lanka, Zimbabwe and more, have all suffered heartache and destruction as a result of natural disasters.

The United States even experienced the hardship of more than 50 separate weather, climate and flood disasters, above the 10-year average of 45 disasters.  With hundreds and thousands of lives affected, fast action and relief saves lives. However, although quick relief is important, safety and health should not be taken for granted.

Aerial view of flood damage from Hurricane Harvey (Photo Credit: Brett Coomer, Houston Chronicle)

Disaster Relief Precautions

Following a natural disaster, first responders, insurance adjusters, and contractors are called upon to re-build or repair damage in the home or workplace.  To ensure safety with relief and reconstruction, the following precautions and best practices will ensure good health and well-being, long after a natural disaster.

Asbestos

While managing flood recovery and other natural disaster reconstruction, asbestos is not often thought of.  Although entirely natural, asbestos is very harmful to health, leading to cancer such as mesothelioma, asbestosis, lung cancer and more.  There is no safe level of asbestos exposure and once asbestos fibers are consumed by way of inhalation or ingestion, health concerns can develop anywhere between 10-50 years later.  Therefore, it is important to consider the age of a structure before performing a repair.

Flood Damage Asbestos Abatement (Photo Credit: Patriot Abatement Services)

Asbestos use was widespread during the early 1930s with heightened use during the mid to late 1970s throughout the 1980s.  Its fire-resistant properties, abundance and malleability made it a popular additive in many products used in construction such as tiling, insulation, cements, caulking, heating ducts, roofing, siding, drywall and more.  When such products or materials that contain asbestos are properly encapsulated or enclosed, they will not pose harm to health, however in the case of natural disasters and water damage, the risks of being exposed to asbestos increase as a result.

 Mold

Natural disaster relief zones are breeding grounds for mold, which can begin to develop in as little as 48 hours.  Similar to asbestos, mold is often forgotten about during repairs and disaster relief.  When mold forms, spores enter the air and are easily inhaled, causing skin, eye and nasal passage irritation, wheezing and respiratory health concerns.  Considering the harm associated with mold exposure, it is essential to first dry any wet, humid or damp areas to prevent mold growth.  Additionally, any existing mold should be remediated by a specialist to ensure that all mold spores are eradicated. Control and prevent mold growth by limiting humidity levels, fixing leaky roofs, windows and pipes, cleaning and drying wet areas, and ensuring proper shower, laundry and cooking area ventilation.

 Awareness and training are two essential steps to ensure successful and safe, disaster relief.  However, asbestos and mold are only two concerns to be mindful of,  as lead, silica, PCBs, particulate matter and other hazardous building materials pose great harm to health as well.  Moreover, first responders and all others called upon during disaster relief, must prioritize self-care techniques to prevent burnout and secondary traumatic stress.

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About the Author

Alison Grimes is a Health Advocate at the Mesothelioma + Asbestos Awareness Centre (MAA Center).  The MAA Center is an independent group working to help mesothelioma patients, caregivers, advocates, and others looking to learn more about the disease.