Backgrounder Article from  Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada

New Asbestos Measures

Asbestos is regulated by several federal and provincial laws and is also the subject of international conventions. The Government of Canada strictly conforms to the legislative requirements for health and safety, and asbestos management programs are in place in its buildings.

Current federal controls focus on mining, high-risk consumer products and federal workplace exposure. The Government of Canada has completed an examination and will now implement a whole-of-government approach to further strengthen management and controls through a series of science-based actions, including a ban on asbestos and asbestos-containing products. This approach maps out an aggressive timeline to fulfill the government's commitment to ban asbestos by 2018, and it builds on the actions taken to date to ban asbestos from Public Services and Procurement Canada's new construction and renovation projects.

Environment and Climate Change Canada

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.

Health Canada

When it comes to asbestos, the science is clear. Breathing in airborne asbestos fibres can cause serious health problems, including cancer. Health Canada will collaborate with Environment and Climate Change Canada in developing a regulation under the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999. Health Canada will also continue to raise awareness about the health impacts of asbestos to help reduce the incidence of diseases such as lung cancer.

Employment and Social Development Canada

Employment and Social Development Canada, through the Labour Program, is the lead on regulations that establish exposure limits and set requirements on employers for worker training and protection at federal workplaces. In the near future, the government will propose amendments to the Canada Occupational Health and Safety Regulations under the Canada Labour Code to prescribe a maximum level of exposure as well as requirements for storage, handling, education and labelling.

Public Services and Procurement Canada

An inventory of buildings containing asbestos that are owned and leased by Public Services and Procurement Canada was made public on September 23, 2016. The government will expand this inventory to include all federal buildings containing asbestos. We are committed to providing employees, occupants and visitors of federal government buildings with safe and healthy environments.

National Research Council

The government will also work with the Canadian Commission on Building and Fire Codes to remove asbestos references from the National Building Code of Canada, one of five national model codes that are published every five years by the National Research Council of Canada. The National Building Code of Canada sets out technical provisions for the design and construction of new buildings. The recently released 2015 code contained changes related to asbestos: in larger buildings, the Code prohibits the use of asbestos cement drain pipes; in smaller buildings, it prohibits the use of asbestos drain pipes and millwork. The Commission is currently working to remove the remaining asbestos references.

About asbestos

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.


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Hon. Kirsty Duncan Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada Health and Safety

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