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CMA slams Ottawa's reluctance to stop asbestos exports to developing countries

The federal government's refusal to designate asbestos a hazardous material is unconscionable, the group representing Canada's doctors says.

Delegates to the general council of the Canadian Medical Association, meeting in St. John's, rebuked the Harper government for blocking the inclusion of chrysolite asbestos in the Rotterdam Convention, which would essentially make it impossible for Canada to export the carcinogenic material to developing countries, as it does now.

"We must send a strong message that their unethical and shameful behaviour will not be tolerated by the doctors of Canada," Dr. Barry Turchen, a family physician from Abbotsford, B.C., told the assembly.

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Dr. Yun Jen, a public-health physician in Gatineau, Que., said the continued export of asbestos to countries where health and safety standards are lax, such as India, Bangladesh and Indonesia, gives Canada a black eye internationally. She said it is hypocritical to export asbestos when it's not used domestically. "It's as if others don't have the right to be healthy. It's unacceptable."

The Conservative government argues that chrysolite asbestos is perfectly safe if handled appropriately, a position the doctors reject.

Dr. Jeffrey Turnbull, president of the CMA, said the organization will make it known to politicians that "Canada should not be in the business of exporting such a dangerous product."

André Picard

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About the Author
Public health reporter

André Picard is a health reporter and columnist at The Globe and Mail, where he has been a staff writer since 1987. He is also the author of three bestselling books.André has received much acclaim for his writing. More

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