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14 June 2010

Article from the Montreal Gazette Asbestos Industry in for Boost

On Wednesday June 9 Quebec provincial Health Minister Yves Bolduc was accused in a letter signed by 36 prominent doctors and public health researchers from 21 countries of ignoring his duty as a medical doctor by supporting the use of asbestos. Quebec's Medical Code of Ethics says a doctor is "not to participate in any concerted action that puts in danger the health of an individual or a population." The main author of the letter is Dr. Philip Landrigan, president of the Collegium Ramazzini, an independent international academy of 180 renowned experts in the fields of occupational and environmental health. "Chrysotile asbestos causes serious harm to health. There is no safe exposure level. It goes on killing for generations," writes Dr. Landrigan, dean of Global Health at the Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York City. Read full text below or link to the Montreal Gazette 12 June 2010.

Asbestos industry in for boost
Union set to vote. Province appears poised to okay loan guarantee
By MICHELLE LALONDE, The Gazette June 12, 2010

Despite an international shaming campaign, Premier Jean Charest's cabinet appears poised to approve a $58-million loan guarantee that would kick-start Quebec's ailing and controversial asbestos industry.

The proposed underground expansion of the Jeffrey Mine in the town of Asbestos, on hold since 2002 because of a lack of funds, will go ahead if 350 unionized mine workers approve a five-year contract tomorrow and if Charest's cabinet okays the loan guarantee.

Asbestos Mayor Hugues Grimard yesterday confirmed reports that Quebec Economic Development Minister Clement Gignac has promised the town and Jeffrey Mine Inc. owner Bernard Coulombe that the Liberal government will guarantee the loan under two conditions:

The union must accept a five-year contract and the workers must pay 10 per cent of their salaries into a fund, totalling $10 million over five years, to be held by the government in case the mine fails. If the project is profitable, the $10 million would be distributed among the workers.

According to Grimard, the workers have already agreed to the $10-million fund, and are expected to resolve other issues, related to pensions and the duration of the contract, and approve the deal tomorrow.

"I'm confident the workers will realize the importance of this project, not just for this town but for the whole region," Grimard said.

Charest has steadfastly reiterated his government's policy to promote the "safe use of asbestos" despite increasingly vocal opposition from doctors, scientists and public health organizations across Quebec and around the world. These groups say Charest's position is immoral, as developing countries lack resources to protect workers and the public from deadly dust released whenever asbestos-cement construction materials are sawed or hammered.

"It is estimated more than 2 million people will die from asbestos-caused disease in the next couple of decades, and these deaths will increase if Quebec succeeds in resuscitating its asbestos industry," said Kathleen Ruff, an anti-asbestos activist with the Ottawa-based Rideau Institute.

The anti-asbestos lobby seems to have given up on shaming the premier and has moved on to other cabinet members.

On Wednesday, provincial Health Minister Yves Bolduc was accused in a letter signed by 36 prominent doctors and public health researchers from 21 countries of ignoring his duty as a medical doctor by supporting the use of asbestos. Quebec's Medical Code of Ethics says a doctor is "not to participate in any concerted action that puts in danger the health of an individual or a population."

The main author of the letter is Philip Landrigan, president of the New York-based Collegium Ramazzini, an independent international academy of 180 renowned experts in the fields of occupational and environmental health.

"Chrysotile asbestos causes serious harm to health. There is no safe exposure level. It goes on killing for generations," writes Landrigan, dean of Global Health at the Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York City.

Karine Rivard, an aide to Bolduc, said the minister received the letter, but continues to "promote and support the safe use of chrysotile asbestos here and elsewhere."

She said the cabinet is still studying the question of whether to guarantee the loan, and could not say if Bolduc will support it.

Other cabinet members were lying low on the asbestos issue this week.

Jack Roy, a spokesperson for Serge Simard, junior minister responsible for mines, said only that Simard supports the safe use of asbestos. Anne-Sophie Desmeules, a spokesperson for Gignac, said she could not comment on whether the minister would support the financial guarantee while negotiations were under way. And the premier's office did not respond to a request for an interview yesterday.





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