Environment and Climate Change Canada (ECCC) and Health Canada (HC) have released for consultation a proposed regulatory approach for prohibiting asbestos and asbestos-containing products.
Consistent with plans announced late last year, it calls for the enactment of regulations that would ban the import, use and sale of asbestos and asbestos-containing products under the Canadian Environmental Product Act (Cepa). It also seeks a prohibition on the export of these products through amendments to the existing Export of Substances on the Export Control List Regulations (ESECLR).
The proposed approach is part of a broader effort from the Canadian government to protect against exposure to the substance. This includes a commitment to update Canada’s international position regarding its listing as a hazardous material under the Rotterdam Convention.
The regulations, expected to be published in December, would ban six minerals: asbestos, actinolite, amosite, anthophyllite, chrysotile, crocidolite and tremolite. They are slated to take effect no later than 2018.
Products manufactured or imported before the regulations come into force, as well as naturally occurring traces of asbestos, would be exempt. Additional proposed exclusions include:
• mining and the processing of mining residues for certain purposes;
• asbestos that is contained in pest control products; and
• its use in a laboratory for analysis or in scientific research, in a quantity below a threshold of one gram.
Asbestos was historically used for insulating buildings and homes and for fireproofing. While many uses have been phased out, the substance can still be found in:
• cement and plaster products, such as cement pipe and cement flat board;
• industrial furnaces and heating systems;
• building insulation;
• floor and ceiling tiles;
• house siding;
• car and truck brake pads; and
• vehicle transmission components, such as clutches.
In comments submitted following publication of the notice of intent to create regulations stakeholders generally supported the prohibition, Canada said. Some requested that the government include no exemptions.
Others, however, noted a "need to consider exemptions for certain industrial uses, citing socio-economic challenges in moving to asbestos-free alternatives", said the government. Several stakeholders also urged the government to ensure any restrictions are risk-based.
Asbestos outside Canada
The EU has banned asbestos, except for a time-limited exemption for the use of diaphragms containing chrysotile asbestos in electrolysis installations.
Australia has banned it in a number of different cases.
The US is currently evaluating the potential risks to human health from asbestos as one of the first ten chemicals subject to review under the new TSCA. It has banned the substance’s use in certain paper products, but many uses – such as in vinyl floor tile and disk brake pads – are still permitted.
The government is seeking data on companies’ uses in products, including the possible use of alternative substances, the amount currently held in inventory and any materials that naturally contain traces of asbestos, among others.