Canadian Government Lowering Exposure Limit for Asbestos

The Canadian Labour Code (Federal Health and Safety legislation) is being revised to lower the exposure limit of airborne asbestos. The target exposure limit is zero, or as close to zero as possible. This is part of a broader government strategy aimed at banning asbestos and asbestos-containing materials, expected to be fully in force by 2018.

The move to reduce exposure limits and ban asbestos-containing materials will lower the risk to workers who are exposed to asbestos in the workplace. Asbestos is a known carcinogen, which means that it is known to cause cancer. Specifically, asbestos exposure causes mesothelioma, an aggressive cancer that attacks the lungs, heart, or abdominal lining. The only cause of mesothelioma is asbestos exposure. There is no known cure for mesothelioma, and the prognosis is generally very poor. Since 1996, over 5000 Canadian workers have died from mesothelioma, making it one of the largest on-the-job killers in the country. Asbestos exposure is also known to cause:

  • Asbestosis (scarring and thickening of lung tissue)
  • Lung cancer
  • Laryngeal cancer
  • Cancer of the reproductive systems in both men and women
  • Pleural plaques (non-cancerous calcifications on the lungs)
  • Pleural thickening (thickening of the lungs)
  • Pleural effusion (water on the lungs)

The amendments made to the Canada Labor Code to limit exposure and reduce the number of asbestos-related illnesses and fatalities in Canada will align with the highest and safest global standards for asbestos safety. The aim is to reduce the risk to exposed Canadian workers, and reduce the number of asbestos-related deaths by minimizing or eliminating exposure to harmful asbestos-containing materials or asbestos.

Written by Jennifer Miller | Curriculum Development Coordinator


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