(NaturalNews) For more than a year Health Canada held on to a report that concluded there is a "strong relationship" between lung cancer and chrysotile asbestos mined in Canada. The report was authored by a panel of international experts and was received by Health Canada in March 2008.
Trevor Ogden, the panel chairman for the report, made repeated requests to Health Canada to have the report made public, but the requests were resisted. Ogden referred to the delay as "an annoying piece of needless government secrecy."
The report was obtained by Canadian media outlet Canwest News Service under Access to Information legislation, but only after 10 months of processing.
The panel's report found a less certain connection between chrysotile asbestos and mesothelioma, a rare form of cancer. However, the report did find a strong connection between chrysotile asbestos and lung cancer, according to Ogden writing in an introductory letter.
In the letter, Ogden, who is editor-in-chief of The Annals of Occupational Hygiene in Britain, also noted that the panel included members who have previously expressed opposing views on the subject, including industry consultant David Bernstein, who was previously involved with asbestos producer Union Carbide Corp, as well as Canadian and California asbestos mining companies.
A Health Canada spokesman said the delay in releasing the report was due to taking time necessary to carefully review the report's findings and to consult other federal and provincial partners.
Leslie Stayner, director of epidemiology and biostatistics at the University of Illinois School of Public Health, commented on details of the report which also included amphibole asbestos as having a connection to risk of mesothelioma.
"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."
The report's release has reopened debate on the future of the asbestos industry in Canada, and particularly in the province of Quebec where the industry is concentrated.
Member of Parliament Pat Martin, who has long been a supporter of a ban on Canada's asbestos industry, said the panel's conclusions should be taken seriously and should initiate government action on the matter.
"It makes our case. The reality is we're at a tipping point. The jig is up for the asbestos industry," said Martin, who once worked in an asbestos plant in Yukon without being warned of the health risks. Most uses of asbestos are banned in Canada, and all uses for all forms of asbestos have been banned in Europe and Australia. But Canada remains one of the world's largest chrysotile asbestos exporters in the world with more than $100 million of exports in 2008, primarily to developing countries like India and Indonesia.
Other countries that have imported Canadian asbestos since 2007 include the U.S., Columbia, Brazil, Peru, Pakistan, China, and Ecuador. Countries that have banned all types of asbestos without exceptions include Bulgaria, Egypt, Poland, Saudi Arabia, Uraguay, Chile, and Iceland.
Chrysotile asbestos is the most commonly encountered form of asbestos, accounting for about 95% of asbestos found in the United States.