Canada Launches New Asbestos Regulations. Will U.S. Follow Suit?
On March 22, 2018, the public comment period for Canada’s proposed Prohibition of Asbestos will end. When it does, the Government of Canada will consider all comments and information received in the development of the final regulations, targeted for publication this fall.
The proposed regulations would prohibit the import, sale, and use of asbestos, as well as the manufacture, import, sale and use of products containing asbestos. The new regulations will be tougher, or as tough as, those of the more than 60 nations that have banned the toxic mineral. The Canadian Government says it “recognizes that breathing in asbestos fibers can cause cancer and other diseases, so it is taking action by developing strict regulations to help protect Canadians from asbestos exposure.”
The U.S and Canada have one of the world’s largest shared borders, with a massive and diverse geography of ecosystems in common. Says the EPA, “this requires close cooperation among many U.S. states, Canadian provinces, U.S. Tribes, First Nations, and local and federal governments,” so it’s not surprising that the two countries have one of the world’s “oldest and most effective environmental partnerships.”
So why is it that Canada’s asbestos ban is on track to take effect in just a matter of months, while in the U.S., a decades old partial ban remains in neutral, covering just five asbestos-containing products?
Bainbridge points to America’s complex political system and pro-asbestos lobbying groups. “To get anything banned in a country requires political action and every country has its own legal process to bring about a prohibition of a substance when warranted,” says Bainbridge. “In some less developed countries, the banning process can be very simple and a government official can simply recognize that something is not good for their society and issue a ban.” However, many countries “have more complex political systems where it can take many years to make a substance illegal. A prime example of a more complex, and thus slower system, is the government of United States, which still hasn’t banned asbestos.”
Pro-asbestos lobbying groups often spend millions of dollars to promote the use of asbestos to leaders in developed countries. These groups are often backed by companies that profit from the production and use of this “cheap” and “effective” building material. “While the immediate profits can never outweigh the cost of lives lost from asbestos-related diseases,” says Bainbridge, “they can blind those in power and prevent laws to prohibit asbestos.”
So will the U.S. become the next developed country to ban asbestos? Experts say, not likely.
EPA. United States Environmental Protection Agency, 2018. Web. 12 Mar. 2018.
Kazan-Allen, Laurie. "Current Asbestos Bans." International Ban Asbestos Secretariat. International Ban Asbestos Secretariat (IBAS), 02 Jan. 2018. Web. 12 Mar. 2018.
"Proposed Regulations Prohibiting Asbestos." Canada.ca. Government of Canada, 6 Jan. 2018. Web. 12 Mar. 2018.
"Why Some Countries Will Not Ban Asbestos." Bainbridge Asbestos. Bainbridge Learning, UK, 07 Dec. 2016. Web. 12 Mar. 2018.