Canada has a mixed record on asbestos; mining it used to be a big deal in Quebec, employing hundreds. It was almost all exported, mostly to India where it was made into cement board and roofing tiles. Asbestos was common for fireproofing, and made really durable exterior siding, transite drainage piping, floor tiles and even those popcorn ceilings people loved in the sixties. When it was all bound up with cement and undisturbed it was not considered that dangerous.
Architects and builders loved the stuff; Donald Trump has declared that it is “100 percent safe, once applied” and tweeted in 2012 that “If we didn't remove incredibly powerful fire retardant asbestos & replace it with junk that doesn’t work, the World Trade Center would never have burned down.” He also has spoken about it at length:
50 countries around the world have banned it, but the United States and Canada had not; in 1989 the EPA tried to, but according to an anti-asbestos website, “Supporters of the asbestos industry said the ban would lead to “death by regulation” and pointed to job loss and economic consequences.” In the USA it is still used in brake pads, gaskets and roofing products.
The problems come when you are the poor schlepper who is making something with it, renovating or demolishing; a single asbestos fiber in the lungs can cause “irreversible damage - leading to asbestosis, lung cancer or mesothelioma.” Canada long ago banned manufacturing with it, but still allowed exports and imports of products made with it somewhere else. It is still found in some brake pads and building materials. But as of 2018 it will be totally banned. From the Globe and Mail:
“When it comes to asbestos, the scientific evidence is clear,” said Science Minister Kirsty Duncan in a press release. “This irrefutable evidence has led us to take concrete action to ban asbestos … My colleagues and I will continue to work hard to ensure their families, co-workers and communities will be protected from the harmful impacts of asbestos exposure so they may lead healthy, secure lives.”
Building codes will be revised to prohibit its use in construction, and buildings with asbestos in them now will be placed on a registry so that trades who work on the building will know the dangers they face. It’s about time for Canada to do this; somehow I suspect that Americans will have to wait a bit longer.