Insulators Union calls on BC government to license asbestos removal firms after dumping in alleys

BC Insulators Union

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Wednesday October 10, 2019

BC Insulators Union says dumping of asbestos-contaminated demolition materials in Vancouver and Burnaby residential back alleys could instantly be stopped by mandatory licensing of all asbestos removal companies, worker and community exposure to deadly asbestos fibers must be stopped 

VANCOUVER – The BC Insulators Union says the outrageous dumping of asbestos-contaminated demolition materials in Vancouver and Burnaby residential alleys could instantly be stopped by the mandatory licensing of all asbestos removal companies – and is calling on the BC government to act quickly to stop the deadly practice.

“Communities and workers are put at enormous risk when irresponsible demolition contractors remove drywall and other building materials contaminated with deadly asbestos fibers and simply dump it in residential alleys in Vancouver, Burnaby and other locations to avoid paying fees for proper safe disposal,” says Neil Munro, a BC Insulators Union staff representative.

“Asbestos is responsible for 60% of all workplace deaths in BC – exposure to asbestos fibers can cause mesothelioma and lung cancer many years later – and there is no safe exposure level without appropriate protection,” Munro said.

“The BC government can solve the asbestos dumping problem quite quickly by simply implementing mandatory licensing of all asbestos removal companies – that way if they were caught dumping they would be instantly out of business,” Munro said. “And if licensed they could be monitored to ensure safe disposal of asbestos-contaminated waste.”

Munro said the BC government has been studying requests from the union, major industry contractors and health and safety advocates for over two years but has yet to introduce legislation.

“We want to see a comprehensive and well-thought out solution from government but this situation is getting out of hand and every time asbestos is dumped in someone’s back alley lives are at risk,” Munro said.  “Do we want a group of kids to open these bags unknowingly and be exposed to asbestos?”

“And if these shady contractors are that irresponsible, the odds are they may be exposing their workers to asbestos in the removal process,” Munro added.

Munro said BC is one of the few jurisdictions in a G20 country that does not demand the licensing of asbestos removal companies and training of their workers.

Washington state, Australia and England, for example, all require asbestos removal companies be licensed and their workers appropriately trained, Munro said.

“If these bad contractors were dumping radioactive waste in residential back alleys there would be immediate action – but asbestos can be as deadly as uranium if you are exposed to it,” Munro added.

Asbestos is no longer used for insulation in Canada and most jurisdictions but huge quantities are still present in older buildings and demolition or renovation can release the deadly fibers into the air, where inhalation can cause fatal illnesses up to decades later, Munro says.

The BC Insulators Union represents workers who install and remove mechanical insulation as well as heating and cooling systems in buildings.