Despite mounting international criticism, the debate continues inside Canada over whether the nation should continue the mining and export of asbestos. However, in Quebec, where the remaining mines operate, local officials apparently see some handwriting on the wall. They are removing “asbestos” from town names and local agencies.

“The name asbestos is not a great seller,” explained Louis Thivierge to a reporter for the Globe and Mail. Thivierge’s father and grandfather worked in the mines, but as director of the local chamber of commerce, he supports removing “asbestos” – “amiante” in French, the local language – from the chamber’s name. Similarly, Quebec’s place-names commission approved changing a regional body’s name from MRC de L’Amiante to MRC des Appalaches (a mountain range in place of asbestos). Further, the town of Asbestos, Quebec, dropped amiante from its regional council and chamber names, although a proposal four years ago to change the town’s name failed.

Meanwhile, international efforts continue to ban the commercial use of asbestos worldwide. The mining, export or use of asbestos-containing products is now illegal in most European countries, but that is not the case in the United States or Canada.

More information on the drive to ban asbestos in the United States is available from the Asbestos Disease Awareness Organization (ADAO), a victims’ advocacy organization. ADAO also has a one-minute video that presents the case. Last year, legislation was introduced by Patty Murray (D – WA), who has indicated that she will continue her efforts in the new Congress.

Competing views on whether Canada should continue to mine and export asbestos are available from the Canadian Medical Association Journal and the Financial Post. More information on the effort to ban asbestos globally is available from the International Labor Organization.

[Steve Clark]