The Jeffrey Mine in Asbestos, Quebec has come under recent scrutiny after the Canadian government proposed a $58 million grant to reopen the mine.
“The Daily Show” with Jon Stewart sent an investigative reporter to speak with town officials about the state of the mine and their current feelings towards chrysotile asbestos.
The officials believe that chrysotile asbestos is not harmful when limited to small amounts of exposure. The Canadian mines freely export asbestos to developing countries such as India that have devastating effects on the workers and population. A report published by The Center for Public Integrity detailed the exposure in India, reporting that as many as 55,000 people are exposed without protection to the deadly asbestos fibers each year.
Despite the officials’ beliefs, medical studies have proven that all forms of asbestos have a hazardous effect on humans. Health organizations such as the World Health Organization (WHO) and Environmental Protection Agency have listed asbestos and all asbestiform minerals as human carcinogens. Asbestos has been linked to diseases such as malignant mesothelioma, asbestosis and lung cancer.
Asbestos Still Legal in Canada
Although asbestos has been banned in many parts of the world, it is still legal in the United States and Canada, among other countries. Georges-Andrè Gagnè, the general manager of the town stated, “Asbestos has been banned in some parts of the world, but here in Quebec, we are saying ‘use more asbestos.'” Studies by the WHO have shown that over 100,000 people around the world pass away each year from asbestos-related diseases.
Further highlighting the disconnect with town officials, Bernard Columbe, the man spearheading the expansion of the mine commented on the usage of asbestos in developing countries, “[It’s okay for the Indians to use asbestos because] Indians are used to the pollution. It’s like they have a natural antibiotic.”
In India, where much of Canada’s asbestos is exported to, company officials shun most safety equipment for workers.
“The Daily Show” report stated that many of the workers in asbestos and shipbuilding factories were not issued any safety equipment and were forced to use articles of clothing as breathing masks. Past medical studies have shown that only half-face HEPA filters are proper protection from the harmful effects of asbestos fibers.