Chrys(o)t(ile), what an...
January 10, 2017 1:27 PM   Subscribe

In September of 2016, Laura Lozanski, a Canadian occupational health and safety expert, agreed to be interviewed by a man who told her he was working on a documentary about the dangers of asbestos. That man, Robert Moore, is at the centre of a case before the British High Court in which it is alleged he has spied on anti-asbestos activists and organizations.

Lozanski's discovery comes shortly after Canada announced in December 2016 that it intends to ban asbestos by 2018:
Environment and Climate Change Canada will rapidly create a new regulation under the existing Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999 framework. This regulation will ban the manufacture, use, import and export of asbestos and asbestos-containing products. The government also supports the objective of the Rotterdam Convention, which is to protect human health and the environment by promoting informed decisions about the import and management of certain hazardous chemicals. Canada will review its position regarding the listing of chrysotile asbestos under the Rotterdam Convention ahead of the 8th Conference of the Parties, which will be held in the spring of 2017.
The move has been called "long overdue." Canada's previous federal government, under Prime Minister Stephen Harper, opposed the inclusion of chrysotile asbestos in the Rotterdam Convention.

Canada's last two asbestos mines - the Jeffrey Mine , located in Asbestos, Quebec, and another located near Thetford Mines, Quebec - both ceased production in 2011.

In photos: The Last Breaths of a Dying Asbestos Mine

ICIJ: Dangers in the Dust

Previously:

The Waste Lands

There is no minimum safe exposure level for any form of asbestos fibres, according to the World Health Organization
posted by mandolin conspiracy (36 comments total) 14 users marked this as a favorite
 
Wait wait wait wait wait.

There are working asbestos mines? In 2016? In a Western country? We shut Wittenoom down in '66 and put up warning signs around the town saying "here be dragons DO NOT GO HERE". How in the Christ does goody two shoes Canada have an asbestos mine?
posted by Talez at 1:34 PM on January 10 [26 favorites]


I thought this bit "DNT communicated confidential information to Bigazzi not by sending him emails but by saving emails as drafts in an account to which they both had access" was interesting from a tradecraft perspective. Anybody want to weigh in on the value of doing it this way rather than just sending directly via a secure channel? Is it a security via obscurity thing where sending encrypted traffic would have proved he had something to hide, whereas a draft sitting in gmail somewhere wouldn't be enough to attract further notice even if his actual incoming and outgoing email was being watched?

Also HOLY FUCK, THERE ARE PEOPLE STILL MINING ASBESTOS? FOR THE LOVE OF GOD WHY? WHY WOULD YOU DO THAT?
posted by the latin mouse at 1:42 PM on January 10 [4 favorites]


People work in lots of dangerous conditions? I'm not sure why you think it's surprising- it is possible to safely work around asbestos.
posted by dilaudid at 1:43 PM on January 10 [3 favorites]


How in the Christ does goody two shoes Canada have an asbestos mine?

Oh wow, if you still think Canada is super friendly don't look up the history of the residential schools eh?

Our economy relies a lot on natural resources. We've had mixed success in protecting the public against industry.
posted by LegallyBread at 1:46 PM on January 10 [20 favorites]


This wouldn't even be news in the USA. Save yourself, Canada!
posted by intermod at 1:48 PM on January 10


The "just check Gmail drafts" gambit is old and tired at this point. That's what Petraeus was doing with his mistress when he got busted for leaking State secrets. It's probably first thing the cops check nowadays, especially since all it takes is subpoenaing Google to ask who was logging into a specific Gmail account.
posted by sideshow at 1:49 PM on January 10 [5 favorites]


How in the Christ does goody two shoes Canada have an asbestos mine?

Oh, we support a lot of our dying industries. There's usually a nice bit of hypocrisy built-in to our efforts too, like fighting to be able to continue exporting asbestos to third world countries on the basis that it's perfectly safe if handled properly, but at the same time insisting that no government building has the least trace of it.
posted by Capt. Renault at 2:00 PM on January 10 [12 favorites]


People work in lots of dangerous conditions? I'm not sure why you think it's surprising

Because asbestos exposure kills people in a particularly painful way. This has been known for decades. That it is still permitted to be used in many countries in a variety of contexts [US example] is indeed surprising.

That is, it's not that fact that people are mining it that is surprising, it's that it being mined at all. At least for me, since asbestos was completely banned in Australia in the 1980s. Before this, I thought that was the case in the US and Canada also.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 2:03 PM on January 10 [10 favorites]


I'm not sure why you think it's surprising- it is possible to safely work around asbestos.

It's safe right up until it's not. At which point it's deadly AF.

Maybe it's a generational thing? Any time asbestos has been mentioned my whole adult life it's been in the context of people dying after past exposure, lawsuits and payouts relating to past exposure and massively increased costs on various public works projects to take into account that the original buildings contained asbestos and any kind of demolition or repair work or even just allowing the place to become run down puts members of the public at risk of death.

The last time I heard anybody with a good word to say about asbestos was when I was a child and they hadn't yet phased out those heatproof asbestos mats that you used to get in school science labs. At that point it was the teacher telling me that why loose asbestos would give you cancer, it was inert while it was in the pre-fab mats. (Even though the mats were decades old and clearly crumbling at the edges.)

So given that the cost of using asbestos is so high, both in terms of human life and in terms of lawsuits and ongoing building costs, I'd just assumed that we were all working on eradicating it, not deliberately digging up even more of the stuff. Super naive of me in hindsight, really, since the cancers don't show up until twenty years or so after exposure, while the fee for the shipment of asbestos shows up way more promptly. Capitalism: red in tooth and claw.
posted by the latin mouse at 2:06 PM on January 10 [15 favorites]


How in the Christ does goody two shoes Canada have an asbestos mine?

The long and short of it is that a side effect of Quebec nationalism is that there is a strong undercurrent of noxious skepticism among the resource-extracting Quebecois working class, and in the policies enacted by those who pander to them. If their jobs are in peril, it's always an Anglo conspiracy based on Anglo lies and blah blah blah.
posted by Sys Rq at 2:21 PM on January 10 [11 favorites]


How in the Christ does goody two shoes Canada

Yeah, so, the issue here is your assumption. Tons of crappy shit goes on in Canada.
posted by GuyZero at 2:28 PM on January 10 [13 favorites]


Don't know if this is region-restricted or not, but here's the 2009 CBC documentary Asbestos: Canada's Dirty Secret.

Alternate link here.
posted by mandolin conspiracy at 2:34 PM on January 10 [2 favorites]


Tons of crappy shit goes on in Canada.

Indeed, most -- if not all -- of our shit is crappy.
posted by Sys Rq at 2:34 PM on January 10 [9 favorites]


Also, if you want some more data on asbestos production, consumption, and imports/exports, USGS has you covered.
posted by mandolin conspiracy at 2:38 PM on January 10 [1 favorite]


From one of the articles:

"proudly sports a sweater made of asbestos fibers"

How the hell? What? WHY?
posted by Scattercat at 2:39 PM on January 10 [3 favorites]


There are working asbestos mines? In 2016? In a Western country?

The last ones in Canada closed in 2011. But still - 2011!!!
posted by mandolin conspiracy at 2:41 PM on January 10 [2 favorites]


"proudly sports a sweater made of asbestos fibers"

Proudly huffs a beaker of pure benzene

Proudly runs a diesel generator in the house

Proudly keeps a chunk of radium in their pocket

Proudly chews some tabacco with extra added fiberglass
posted by Existential Dread at 2:46 PM on January 10 [12 favorites]


goody two shoes Canada

We're good a personal branding. Suckers.
posted by My Dad at 2:48 PM on January 10 [8 favorites]


Anyway, it's not the mines that are the problem, it's the product they produce. Asbestos has been sold to emerging economies where the mineral causes health problems, notably when ferroconcrete structures are demolished. Asbestos is also a major toxin in the process of ship-breaking.
posted by My Dad at 2:50 PM on January 10 [2 favorites]


Proudly huffs a beaker of pure benzene

You joke but I saw someone huffing a big can labelled "TOLUENE" on a TTC subway once.
posted by GuyZero at 2:57 PM on January 10


for the record, toluene isn't nearly as bad as benzene, should you find yourself on a ttc subway and forced to choose
posted by ryanrs at 3:21 PM on January 10 [14 favorites]


"The greatest fire-proofing material ever used!" --- Trump.
posted by SPrintF at 3:32 PM on January 10 [6 favorites]


If you want to use it for fireproofing, use basalt fiber instead. It's made by extruding molten rock, similar to making fiberglass. It's more expensive because you can't just dig it out of the ground, but the fibers are large enough that they aren't an inhalation hazard like asbestos.

Asbestos doesn't do anything you can't do with other materials. It's just really cheap.
posted by ryanrs at 3:43 PM on January 10 [4 favorites]


though tbf basalt fiber sweaters probably aren't as soft as asbestos
posted by ryanrs at 3:44 PM on January 10 [4 favorites]


Weird connection time!

From that third link: "Over a period of four years, the court was told, a spy working for K2 Intelligence Ltd masqueraded as a sympathetic documentary maker in order to gather a mass of sensitive material about the leading figures in the campaign, their methods, funding and future plans. [...] K2 was founded by Jules Kroll, a leading figure in the corporate intelligence industry, and is run by his son and co-founder, Jeremy."

In case anyone else immediately had the thought, "Hmm, that's not a very common surname, I wonder if..." Yep. Wikipedia: "[Nick] Kroll was born in New York City, and raised in Westchester County, New York, the son of Lynn (Corda) and Jules B. Kroll, a businessman who founded Kroll Inc., a corporate investigations and risk consulting firm. The youngest child in the family, he has a brother, Jeremy, and two sisters, Vanessa and Dana."
posted by Sys Rq at 3:52 PM on January 10 [5 favorites]


I'm in danger of causing/contributing to a derail here but I literally looked at your comment SPrintF and mentally censured you for not appending a [fake] tag. Apologies after clicking. Good grief!
posted by comealongpole at 4:23 PM on January 10 [1 favorite]


Indeed, most -- if not all -- of our shit is crappy.
posted by Sys Rq at 2:34 PM on January 10


(Except the bits of corn. That's still corn)
posted by Annika Cicada at 4:38 PM on January 10 [2 favorites]


Yes, but a lot of it is GMO corn.
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 5:34 PM on January 10 [2 favorites]


I wouldn't really blame Quebec's history of defending asbestos on "nationalism" -- you can see very similar things happening in Alberta with tar sands or in Pennsylvania with coal.
posted by Monday, stony Monday at 5:56 PM on January 10


It's safe right up until it's not. At which point it's deadly AF.

There's an entire industry that safely handles this stuff in its deadly airborne form every day - asbestos remediation. And they're not going anywhere; we have a long ways to go until our buildings are free of it.

Maybe it's a generational thing?

No, I think everyone here has a healthy awareness of how dangerous and deadly this stuff is. I think the point was that the unsafe part of Asbestos is handling it without the proper equipment.

(Of course you pretty much guarantee that will happen somewhere if you keep selling the stuff and using it in buildings and products. So I support banning its import, export and use.)
posted by Pruitt-Igoe at 8:24 PM on January 10 [1 favorite]


I think the point was that the unsafe part of Asbestos is handling it without the proper equipment.

Well, it's also that in Canada it's still in use in scenarios where people can be exposed. Canada only just (last month) announced its intent to ban asbestos in 2018.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 8:42 PM on January 10 [2 favorites]


If you think the mines we have here are bad you should ask those living near our mines overseas!

(Canada does really suck sometimes. Happy 150th everyone!)
posted by chapps at 12:28 AM on January 11 [2 favorites]


goody two shoes Canada

It occurred to me recently that, when you're standing next to the United States, it's really easy to look nonthreatening.
posted by reprise the theme song and roll the credits at 1:31 AM on January 11 [15 favorites]


I can recall in Grade 5 the teacher mixing up some asbestos powder and water in a big bucket at the back of the class, and we all made statues and candy dishes for our parents.
posted by Artful Codger at 11:06 AM on January 11 [1 favorite]


Asbestos miners/exporters:
Russia (50%)
China (14%)
Brazil (12.5%)
Kazakstan (10.5%)
Canada used to export, but in 2012 stopped

In US, new uses are banned, but still used in some products
Largest users include China, India, Thailand, Mexico
posted by neutralmojo at 11:09 AM on January 11


It occurred to me recently that, when you're standing next to the United States, it's really easy to look nonthreatening.

The US is a complex country, full of contradictions. It always pisses me off when Canadians smugly compare ourselves to our southern neighbour, saying how great we are. There are a lot of good things about Canada, but there are a lot of things that need fixing.

For years and years I worked overseas with Americans, and moving back to parochial, sleepy Canada was quite a shock to the system.
posted by My Dad at 1:33 PM on January 12


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