The majority of Canadians want the federal government to create a public registry of buildings that contain asbestos, according to a poll by the Canadian Cancer Society (CCS).
Over 80 percent of Canadians indicated in the poll that having a public list of these buildings is important, and 78 percent believe it is Ottawa’s responsibility to create one.
“Very clearly three quarters of Canadians feel that the federal government should play a role in establishing a national registry so that there’s a list of buildings, so that when you’re working in a building or when you’re living in a building that you would know how to protect yourself from asbestos,” says CCS spokesperson Dan Demers.
Acknowledging that creating such a list could be complex due to the different jurisdictions involved, Demers says Ottawa could take a three-step approach in coming up with a registry.
The federal government should first create a list of its own buildings that contain asbestos, then as the next step work with provincial governments to do the same on a provincial level. The provincial buildings could be anything from schools and hospitals to other public buildings.
At the final stage, the federal government could work with private home and building owners and find ways to allow them to list buildings containing the product.
The current estimate on the number of low-rise homes containing asbestos across the country is around 240,000, but there is no estimate on the number of other types of buildings with asbestos, Demers says.
That’s why the CCS has joined forces with the Canadian Medical Association to ask the federal government to create the public registry.
The Conservatives announced last month that Canada will no longer oppose adding asbestos to an international list of hazardous substances.
Demers says he is happy that the government has changed its position on asbestos, but notes that there has been no movement on creating a public registry of buildings with asbestos, which the CCS has been asking for a number of years.
The Prime Minister’s Office did not respond to a request for comment on the issue.
According to the CCS poll, close to half of Canadians (46 percent) know nothing or very little about how to protect themselves if they are exposed to asbestos. About 21 percent said they know a lot.
Health Canada advises that asbestos only poses a health risk when its fibres are present in the air that people breathe. It adds that asbestos could cause different diseases including lung cancer.
A statement on Health Canada’s website says the federal government encourages provincial occupational health authorities to have strict workplace exposure limits for asbestos.
Federally, the sale of asbestos is regulated under the Hazardous Products Act, and mining emissions from the substance are subject to the Canadian Environmental Protection Act.
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