White death

Published: Saturday 30 June 2001

qubec , Canada, has decided to sharply increase the use of asbestos despite concerns about its health effects. The government of Qubec said that it would purchase 100,000 tonnes of asbestos-enriched bitumen this year, compared to 17,000 tonnes in 2000. Canada is the world's second largest exporter of asbestos and Qubec towns account for maximum mining of the substance.

Environmentalists allege that the government is trying to protect its financial interests by putting the lives of its people in jeopardy. According to the Qubec government, the fibres of asbestos will be coated in bitumen and, therefore, will not be transmitted in the atmosphere. The substance has varied uses such as manufacturing roofing materials. But exposure to asbestos particles can lead to many diseases, including cancer. Between 1967-1997, there were 171,500 cancer deaths from asbestos fibres in USA. Recently, World Trade Organisation (WTO) upheld a French ban on the importation of all asbestos amid health concerns (see, 'Death inside the factory gates', Down To Earth , Vol 9, No 9, September 30, 2000).

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