January 28, 2011
Ms. Linda Reinstein
Chief Executive Officer
Asbestos Disease Awareness Organization
1525 Aviation Boulevard, Suite 318
Redondo Beach CA 90278
Dear Ms. Reinstein,
At the request of Serge Simard, Minister for Natural Resources and Wildlife,
I would like to reply to your recent letter addressed to Jean Charest,
Premier of Quebec, in which you ask him to prohibit the extraction and
exporting of asbestos.
All types of asbestos are carcinogenic, including chrysotile asbestos
(produced in Quebec), and their use may cause illness. However, the use of
chrysotile in compliance with the regulatory provisions and techniques for
safe utilization does not create a significant risk for workers and users.
A wide range of substances and products in everyday use are hazardous for
human health if not used in accordance with suitable standards. They
include petroleum and derived products, cleaning products such as chlorine
and caustic soda, and mineral substances such as silica. However, there are
no calls to ban them as dangerous products.
The Quebec government’s position on the safe use of asbestos has been
based, since 1986, on Convention 162 and Recommendation 172 of the
International Labour Organization, an international agreement signed by
the Government of Canada. This position stems from a large number of
scientific studies that have focused on both workers and members of the
general population who are exposed to asbestos and chrysotile fibres. Any
substance, whether mineral or chemical, can be used safely up to a certain
threshold level, under which it presents a negligible risk.
As a result, the Quebec government supports the safe use of asbestos and
all other dangerous substances.
Since 1984, working in conjunction with industry, the Quebec and federal
governments have supported the creation of the Chrysotile Institute to
collate and distribute information on asbestos and promote safe use, mainly
among industry clients.
The Chrysotile Institute is active in other countries to ensure that users
have access to all the information they need to use chrysotile safely and
In developing countries, where the population has restricted access to
potable water and suitable housing, the use of chrysotile improves access
to basic necessities. Materials based on chryso-cement are low-cost,
durable, and increase comfort by making housing units more soundproof,
better insulated and more rot-resistant. Other substitute materials, such as
cellulose, have yet to be shown to be innocuous. A study of bio-persistence
has even found that these materials are more harmful than chrysotile.
In conclusion, the Quebec government is not ashamed of its actions to
support the use of chrysotile, and should, in fact, be cited as an example
for the way in which it supervises the industry.
Jean-S. Lebel, ing. f.
Associate Deputy Minister for Mines