Canadian consumers and automotive technicians might be surprised to learn that select aftermarket parts pose a serious health risk to the technicians who work with these materials.
These items include brake friction products, clutch plates, hood liners and other aftermarket parts made from asbestos, a known carcinogen that has been linked to certain types of cancer and deaths.
In 1987, the World Health Organization’s International Agency for Research on Cancer declared asbestos a human carcinogen. Asbestos has claimed the lives of nearly 5,000 Canadians since 1996 and is considered “the top on-the-job killer in Canada,” according to Automotive News Canada.
Despite the evidence that asbestos poses a health risk, more than $6 million in asbestos-related items are imported into Canada each year, and asbestos brake linings and pads represented the lion’s share of these items (Statistics Canada).
The reason asbestos is used in aftermarket brake components is because it is good at absorbing and dissipating heat (brakes cause a lot of friction and heat), its strength, and because it is cheaper than non-asbestos materials.
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When asbestos brake pads wear out or disintegrate, the asbestos escapes into the air. The risk to technicians is that cleaning brake assemblies and grinding brake linings can expose them to this potentially toxic asbestos dust.
Although auto manufacturers have eliminated asbestos in new vehicles, the aftermarket is a different story. In Canada, it is still legal to import aftermarket parts that contain asbestos; in the past decade, more than $100 million worth of asbestos automotive parts have been imported into Canada.
The good news is that in December 2016, the Government of Canada announced that it will impose a ban on asbestos and asbestos-containing products in 2018, a move hailed by industry professionals, politicians, public health officials and other stakeholders, who have long advocated for such a ban.
But since Canada has taken so long to ban auto parts made with asbestos, I hope that our country doesn’t become a dumping ground for aftermarket asbestos parts. There are already concerns that asbestos products imported before the ban is in place could be sold legally.
The Trillium Automobile Dealers Association, which represents 1,100 registered new car dealers across Ontario, applauds the ban.
According to a Government of Canada statement, the comprehensive ban on asbestos will include:
∙ Creating new regulations that ban the manufacture, use, import and export of asbestos under the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999, the legislative framework that protects people from the risks associated with hazardous substances such as asbestos;
∙ Establishing new federal workplace health and safety rules that will drastically limit the risk of people coming into contact with asbestos on the job;
∙ Expanding the current online list of asbestos-containing buildings owned or leased by the Government of Canada;
∙ Working in collaboration with our provincial and territorial partners to change the national, provincial and territorial building codes to prohibit the use of asbestos in new construction and renovation projects across Canada;
∙ Updating our international position regarding the listing of asbestos as a hazardous material based on Canada’s domestic ban before next year’s meeting of parties to the Rotterdam Convention, an international treaty involving more than 150 countries that support listing asbestos as a hazard, and;
∙ Raising awareness of the health impacts of asbestos to help reduce the incidence of lung cancer and other asbestos-related diseases.
As of 2014, 55 nations (including Australia, Japan and the United Kingdom) have banned asbestos, and 16 nations have placed restrictions on its use. Canada’s decision to impose a comprehensive asbestos ban by 2018 is a step in the right direction in protecting the health and safety of Canadians.
This column represents the views and values of the TADA. Write to email@example.com
or go to tada.ca. Larry Lantz is president of the Trillium Automobile Dealers Association and is a new-car dealer in Hanover, Ont.