While looking for story ideas on the Canadian Newswire website today I came across this press release. In case you missed it, The Daily Show with Jon Stewart did a bit where correspondent Asif Mambi journeyed to Asbestos, PQ and pretty much did what The Daily Show does: openly mock and denigrate its subject, in this case, the operation of the asbestos mines in Quebec, which still operate and export the deadly material. (It was even covered in a CBC documentary called "Asbestos: Canada's Ugly Secret")
I don't think this usually happens - at least now that most people get The Daily Show's schtick - but it seems the Executive Director of Jeffrey Mine feels that The Daily Show has sullied the good name of himself, his industry and the people of Asbestos, and has demanded an apology from the show. Here's the release.
ASBESTOS, QC, May 17 /CNW Telbec/ - Reacting to the tacky parody that was broadcast by the American television program The Daily Show, Mr. Bernard Coulombe, Executive Director of Jeffrey Mine in Asbestos, said he is disgusted that he was made the subject of such an inappropriate parody, whose only purpose was to discredit him and make the people of the region look like ignorant imbeciles.
"It was already too late by the time I realized that this program was not a serious news show and that all the host wanted was to make fun of me and the town's representatives, to insult us and to deliver anti-asbestos propaganda. Had we known what he had in store for us, obviously I never would have agreed to involve myself in something for which I and the entire chrysotile brief would unfairly end up paying the price," indicated Mr. Coulombe.
Obviously, this crude attempt to discredit the mine and the region is part of a malicious operation that coincides with the Government of Quebec announcing its support for the Asbestos mine; an investment of several tens of millions of dollars that will preserve quality jobs and provide for extracting an exceptional natural resource safely and responsibly.
For years now, producing companies have been applying the principles of responsibility while ensuring that businesses that purchase their product use it safely and responsibly, and respect the exposure levels below which there is no measurable risk to health. "If a company fails to comply with our safety requirements for using chrysotile, we simply stop selling to that company," explained Bernard Coulombe.
Safe use of chrysotile: a reality here and abroad
As to the substance of the matter, it should be pointed out that the asbestos discussed on the Daily Show is in fact chrysotile, a fibre which is completely different from forms of amphibole asbestos, which are the main culprits behind the industrial diseases of the past. Chrysotile is used in applications in which the fibre is encased in cement or asphalt. Users must take certain precautions and understand that although chrysotile does pose a risk to health (like numerous other products we live with on a daily basis), it does not present any measurable risk when used according to the standard of 1 fibre/cc, which is the case not only in Quebec mines, but in many countries to which it is exported.
The same has not been demonstrated for substitute fibres and products, although there is some urgency for doing so.
Here's a look at the offending segment of The Daily Show thanks to Global Montreal