Labour group now opposes Quebec asbestos industry expansion

Stance changed after World Health Organization report

No new expansion projects in Quebec asbestos mines should be supported, said the Confederation des syndicats nationaux (CSN), an organization representing Quebec unions.

The CSN's is calling on the government of Canada to add asbestos to the list of hazardous materials listed in the Rotterdam Convention. It also wants the Quebec government to ensure reinforcement and promotion of the health and safety standards applicable to asbestos in order to maximize prevention in the construction industry and for those working at maintenance and repair jobs.

This new stance, which represents a change in the CSN's position on the safe use of chrysotile — dating back to 1997 — stems from a review of the most recent epidemiological research and the positions adopted by a number of international organizations. The CSN pointed to the World Health Organization's (WHO) ruling that no asbestos concentration threshold is known, below which any form of asbestos dust does not represent a cancer risk.

According to estimates, a minimum of 90,000 people worldwide die each year from an occupational disease caused by asbestos exposure, said the CSN.

Members of the CSN council have begun discussions with union partners, in order to draw up a proposed schedule and transition and restructuring program for workers in the asbestos industry, from a standpoint of triggering the necessary debate on banning asbestos with both levels of governments.

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