Thursday, April 16, 2009

No surprises

The fact that the Cons have finally released the asbestos report which they'd worked so hard to suppress may be somewhat unexpected. But there shouldn't be any news in what it was that the Cons were trying to hide:
For more than a year, Health Canada held onto a report by a panel of international experts that concludes there is a "strong relationship" between lung cancer and chrysotile asbestos mined in Canada.

Health Canada received the report in March 2008, resisting calls from the panel chairman to release the findings despite his plea last fall that the delay was "an annoying piece of needless government secrecy."...

While the panel found the relationship between chrysotile asbestos and the rare of form of cancer mesothelioma "much less certain," there is a "strong relationship of exposure with lung cancer," panel chairman Trevor Ogden wrote in the newly released introductory letter to the report...

In an interview, panelist Leslie Stayner, director of epidemiology and biostatistics at the University of Illinois School of Public Health, said while the panel agreed the link between exposure to amphibole asbestos -- another form of the mineral -- and mesothelioma was stronger than chrysotile asbestos, the experts couldn't agree about the actual degree of that difference.

"The most important thing is what it doesn't say, which is some people have alleged it would say. What it doesn't say is that exposure to chrysotile asbestos is safe," said Stayner.

"I think the bottom line here is that all forms of asbestos cause both mesothelioma and lung cancer. We will probably for many years still be debating this question of relative hazard of chrysotile. The fundamental question of whether it's hazardous or not is clear. I think the answer to that is, yes, chrysotile is a hazardous substance.
One has to wonder whether the report would have been released at all if not for Michael Ignatieff's reversal on asbestos exports. After all, the timing now might at least be seen to embarrass Ignatieff somewhat along with the government - where at any other time, all of the damage would properly be absorbed by the party which hid the report for over a year. And indeed, Ignatieff's most recent position would signal that the Cons don't have to worry about the Official Opposition challenging their stance that the dangers of chrysotile asbestos should be ignored.

But whatever the Cons' calculations as to when the report was released, its findings should provide ample reason to push for action on the issue - even if neither the Cons nor Libs have any interest in leading the charge.

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