In a country where the chrysotile asbestos mining industry was once a major contributor to the economy, the government is finally recognizing the danger of the mineral and has taken steps to amend the Canada Labor Code to lower the occupational exposure limit for asbestos to “as close to zero as possible.”
According to a Reuters article, the new occupational exposure limit, which pertains to all forms of airborne asbestos fibers, is not to exceed 0.1 fibers per cubic centimeter.
Previously, the magic number was 1 fiber per cubic centimeter. The new value was adopted recently by the American Conference of Governmental Industrial Hygienists.
Many government officials believe the update was long overdue and lauded the move to protect workers.
This is one of several regulatory changes that were put in place this week in Canada, the government announced. Another change demands that employers put into place an asbestos management program, which also includes providing training and education for employees involved in positions where they will encounter asbestos.
This includes instruction on removal, handling, and repair of asbestos materials, hence reducing the possibility of exposure.
“These changes will significantly lower the risk of workers coming into contact with asbestos in the workplace, while ensuring consistency with most provincial and territorial regulations for airborne asbestos fiber,” said a government spokesperson in a statement to the press.
The regulatory changes are all part of the Canadian movement towards banning asbestos and asbestos-containing products by 2018. Other regulations that have been put into place include changes to national building codes that prohibit the use of asbestos or asbestos materials in any new construction or renovation projects.
Canada also promises to support listing chrysotile (white) asbestos to the Rotterdam Convention as a hazardous material.
The United States has yet to move in a similar direction. Given the position of the new administration, proponents of banning asbestos believe a total ban on the material is much further away than it was during the prior administration, when then-President Obama seemed to be leaning in that direction.