Canada’s Coming Asbestos Ban: Are you in the clear? Are you sure?

by | May 9, 2018 | 0 comments

YOU CAN BE FORGIVEN if you thought that there was already a ban on asbestos.

After all, the controversy over its health impact goes back decades and, in Canada, it has been a material non-grata since most of us were in short pants.

And for reasons that go beyond regulation and more to liabilities—asbestos was an the centre of billions of dollars in claims going back decades and still rears its head occasionally as medical affects can take hold decades after exposure.

brake service rotor

While there is no longer widespread use of asbestos in brake friction, coming regulations would stop the sale of any asbestos containing products and require the disposal of any products in inventory.

So major brake friction manufacturers in North America and other developed economies moved to non-asbestos organic (NAO) and other asbestos-free friction compounds years ago.

In the U.S., there is not a federal ban, but there is a de facto phase-out through the practice of state Memoranda of Understanding that amounts to virtually the same thing.

But technically it was never entirely banned in Canada and that is what is on the table now.


The proposed regulation—which is what they call it until it is actually in force, though there is no reason to believe it would not be–will prohibit the sale and use of any remaining stockpiles of asbestos not integrated into a structure or infrastructure, and products containing asbestos not yet installed at the coming into force date of the regulations.

The proposed regulations would prohibit the use and sale of any asbestos, or product that contains asbestos, not yet installed (i.e. found in inventory) at the coming into force date of the regulations. Any remaining stockpiles could not be used or sold and would therefore need to be disposed of or destroyed.

The regulations are expected to come into force by year’s end.

According to ministry officials handling the rollout, discussion with aftermarket regarding its use in brake parts has not raised any red flags.

“We are aware of this use but have not received any information that phasing out this use would b e an issue,” said the representative when asked by Jobber Nation.


But this doesn’t mean that it does not going to require some moves on the part of the aftermarket to ensure that it is out of your inventories when the deadline comes.

There were concerns expressed by a representative of the Canadian Forces that having to dispose of inventories that may contain asbestos could be an issue.

And while the automotive aftermarket does tend to cycle its inventories fairly effectively, there is still the chance that some older inventories, or inventories of organizations that cater to classic cars, may still have some asbestos-containing brake parts that they have, paradoxically, been holding onto with pride.

In addition, there has been an ongoing stream of asbestos containing brake friction into Canada.

While not large numbers–2016 figures from Industry Canada stated that four importers brought in more than $400,000 worth of asbestos-containing brake friction—it is nonetheless still part of our present, not our distant past.

One of the foremost proponents of a ban is Rick Jamieson, CEO of ABS Brake Parts in Guelph, Ont. He has been pushing for a ban on asbestos use in brake parts of years, but he welcomes the coming Canadian ban with unease.

“It a relief actually. I’m not far from retirement. I just found it absurd that we still have no safety regulations for brake brads, but we now regulate the environment in both countries. We’re getting there. The environment is winning. “

“We know that it has come in and it wasn’t illegal. We have been some at trade shows and guys tell you it really worked. Yes it worked, but it will kill you,” he adds with emphasis.

He says that its use is still prevalent in some parts of the world.

“What I learned long ago through distributors is that if they want stuff cheap, they will find it cheap. Because the government has given us a hard stop, got only knows how many have these old pads are kicking around in the system. In fit form and function they look the same, you have to destroy the pad to test for asbestos though a lot of the old guys say they can smell it.

“What I don’t know is who will get penalized. If the penalties are high enough then people have to sit up and take notice. Then the insurance industry is going to sit up. There’s another piece. And god forbid anybody should ever lift a product anymore in a brake pad category. Then they have to dispose of it.

“A pad can sit around for 20 years on the shelf. I can guarantee there is some in the distribution network, in the corner of the store, in the back shelf. Old pads for an old Corvette probably have asbestos in them. “

“So it’s bad. And you get other countries like Australia looking for vintage pads, because a guy buys a classic afar and its held at the border because they wont let the brake pads in.”

Jamieson says that coming ban will have not impact on his company because he doesn’t buy those materials, and additional inquiries with players large and small have yielded the same result. But there are likely still some units out there.

“If I knew of a customer that was at risk, I would usually test it and they would get rid of it. If you are buying an off brand, if it’s cheap, you should worry about it. There are people who should worry about it.”

AIA Canada on Banning Asbestos

“As we follow the recent movement to stop the importation of asbestos into Canada, AIA Canada continues to acknowledge worker safety as a priority for AIA’s members and towards an asbestos-free automotive industry,” says Jean-Francois Champagne, president of AIA Canada.

More than 2,000 people die every year in Canada from diseases caused by exposure to asbestos, such as mesothelioma, lung cancer and asbestosis. Asbestos exposure is the number one cause of occupational death in Canada, and since 1996, asbestos-related diseases have account for about a third of the workplace deaths recognized by worker’s compensation boards.

While Canada has halted exportation of asbestos, the importation of asbestos products such as brake pads and clutches for new and used vehicles has not been totally eliminated.

Many automotive repair shops and do-it-yourselfers are unaware that asbestos is still present in both old and replacement brakes and clutches, resulting in exposure to toxic and potentially life threatening asbestos dust without the use of proper protection.

AIA Canada hopes that the discussion will continue around a ban on asbestos; improved workplace safety practices; and progress towards alternative solutions for products containing asbestos.


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