Canada is opposed to placing chrysotile, the main asbestos fiber used today, under the Rotterdam Convention's notification and consent process, despite chrysotile being deemed a human carcinogen by the World Health Organization (WHO).
There is some disagreement about the impact of asbestos. The 100,000 annual deaths attributed to asbestos are in dispute because those figures were extrapolated worldwide from an area in Europe and critics say the risk from chrysotile is much lower than for other types of asbestos .
Asbestos fibers, like any natural or man-made fibrous breathable materials, can be inhaled but most fibers are expelled. Some can become lodged in the lungs and remain, causing severe scarring and inflammation and increasing the risk of lung cancer.
Canada argues that “chrysotile is a less potent carcinogen … and consequently poses a lower health risk.” Which is either favoring science instead of public health hysteria, a la DDT, or similar to a tobacco company saying their 'light' cigarettes are less likely to kill you.
Safer is not safe, of course. The issue is that Canada limits asbestos use in Canada but has no problem exporting it. 96% of the asbestos produced in Canada is for export to developing countries like India, Indonesia and Thailand, where it is turned into asbestos cement for construction.
A modern country like Canada or the USA, knowledgeable about the potential health effects of asbestos, can use it in a much safer way today than was possible 50 years ago, before its dangers were known. Canada counts on the importing countries to protect its people, while critics in Canada contend that governments and business owners there do not have the oversight infrastructure or perhaps even the desire to make sure that it is used safely.
Dr. Trevor Ogden, chairman of the Health Canada report panel, said that “Canada has a pretty bleak reputation in most of the health science world” regarding The Health Canada report that was meant to assess the potency of chrysotile asbestos.
The editorial concludes that "Canada should do its part in alleviating the global epidemic of asbestos-related disease by ending the mining and export of chrysotile, as the WHO recommends."