Canadian Consulting Engineer

Asbestos ban to be incorporated in National Building Code

December 20, 2016

The federal government’s announcement that it will ban asbestos has been met with acclaim by  media commentators, who say it is long overdue.

On December 16 the Canadian Ministers of Science, Health and Environment and Climate Change and Public Services and Procurement jointly announced that the government will “move forward with a whole-of-government approach to fulfill its commitment to ban asbestos and asbestos-containing products by 2018.”

New regulations will ban the manufacture, use and importing of asbestos under the Canadian Environmental Protection Act.

The government said it already strictly conforms to the legislative requirements for health and safety, and has already banned asbestos from Public Services and Procurement Canada’s new construction and renovation projects.  Now the government is going to create an expanded inventory of all federal buildings that already contain asbestos.

The government will also work with the Canadian Commission on Building and Fire Codes to remove asbestos references from the National Building Code. The recently released 2015 code contained changes that prohibit the use of of asbestos cement drain pipes in large buildings, and prohibit the use of asbestos drain pipes and millwork in smaller buildings.  The Commission is currently working to remove the remaining asbestos references from the code.

In the near future, said the government, it will propose amendments to the Canada Occupational Health and Safety Regulations to prescribe the maximum level of exposure to asbestos and the requirements for its storage, handling, education and labelling.  However, if asbestos is tightly bound and left undisturbed there are no significant health risks, said the press release.

Asbestos is the common name for a group of naturally occurring minerals, all of which carry health risks. At the height of its use, asbestos was found in more than 3,000 applications worldwide, including roofing, thermal and electrical insulation, cement pipe and sheets, flooring, gaskets, friction materials (e.g. brake pads and shoes) and a variety of other materials. The production and use of asbestos have declined since 1970.

Asbestos was declared a human carcinogen by the World Health Organization’s International Agency for Research on Cancer in 1987. The inhalation of airborne asbestos fibres can cause lung damage, including lung cancer, mesothelioma and asbestosis.

To read the government press release of December 16, click here.

To read an article in the Globe and Mail, click here.

Here is a link to the Mesothelioma + Asbestos Awareness Center


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