Quebec town of Asbestos tires of sounding toxic

James Marshall
December 1, 2019

Founded in the late 19th century around the now-closed Jeffrey mine, the town 170 kilometres east of Montreal helped make Canada one of the world's leading asbestos exporters.

Although health concerns associated with breathing asbestos dust fibres had been raised as far back as the turn of the last century, it was only close to the turn of this century that serious concerns were raised and bans on its use started to appear.

Officials in Asbestos, Quebec, said the city will change it name to distance itself from the toxic building insulating material. For decades, the town thrived on asbestos mining and product manufacturing.

Mayor Hugues Grimard has committed to a $100,000 name change in order to avoid having the association with the mineral, asbestos, which has been linked to several types of cancer. The World Health Organization estimates that at least 107,000 people die from asbestos-related diseases globally each year.

On Wednesday, the council stated it was shifting forward with the title change, saying it was serving as "brake on town's need to develop financial relations overseas".

Mayor Grimard even claimed investors refused to take his business cards during a recent trip to OH, prompting the council to declare that the name change was in order.

Mr Grimard said the situation would be explained to the "entire population", adding: "Then they will participate in the creation of a new identity".

The decision follows a failed attempt at a new name in 2006, pre-dating the 2012 shutdown of the mine - a crater more than a mile wide that is the town's most prominent landmark. Today it's the opposite. Now, though, asbestos is banned in more than 60 countries. "With the huge open pit mine right there, it is playing ostrich to change the name to pretend to potential investors that asbestos never existed, a big job to make disappear the remains of the mine that put this town on the map".

Grimard said the council will be seeking suggestions for a new name from townspeople.

Other reports by Click Lancashire

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