Trace amounts of asbestos in consumer products: guidance
This page provides general information on paragraphs 4(c) and 5(b) of the Prohibition of Asbestos and Products Containing Asbestos Regulations (the regulations).
Asbestos is a naturally occurring substance. Low levels of asbestos fibres are omnipresent in the environment, including in both indoor and outdoor air. As a result of its natural presence, trace amounts of asbestos may be found as a contaminant in consumer products available in Canada.
Regulation of asbestos in consumer products
The regulations prohibit the import, sale and use of processed asbestos fibres. They also prohibit the import, sale, use and manufacture of:
- products, including consumer products, containing processed asbestos fibres at any level; and
- consumer products containing naturally occurring asbestos in greater than trace amounts.
For the purpose of these regulations, a consumer product is generally understood to refer to a product, including its components, parts, packaging or accessories, that may reasonably be expected to be obtained by an individual for personal or family use and/or household purposes.
Consumer products include any goods that are designed to be attached or installed in any real or personal property, whether or not they are attached.
Consumer products include food, drugs, cosmetics and craft materials, among other things.
Trace amounts of asbestos in consumer products
Asbestos is a commercial term applied to six different varieties of minerals: chrysotile, amosite, crocidolite, anthophyllite, tremolite and actinolite.
Based on current scientific data, human health risks associated with exposure to trace amounts of naturally occurring asbestos are expected to be low.
For the purpose of these regulations, at the present time, Environment and Climate Change Canada and Health Canada consider trace amounts of asbestos to be below 0.1% when measured using a suitable standard analytical method with polarized light microscopy.
At present, test results identifying asbestos at 0.1% or more, with fibres that demonstrate both of the following characteristics, will be considered by Environment and Climate Change Canada and Health Canada as evidence of the presence of asbestos in more than a trace amount:
- Fibres longer than 5 µm, with a mean aspect ratio greater than 3:1. Aspect ratios should be determined for fibres, not bundles.
- Very thin fibrils, less than 3 µm in width.
These characteristics of asbestos fibres are consistent with the definitions laid out by the Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety and the World Health Organization.
Standard analytical methods
For the purpose of these regulations, a suitable standard analytical method is one that:
- can quantify concentrations of asbestos down to 0.1% in the material being sampled; and
- is internationally recognized.
The analysis should be performed by individuals with appropriate knowledge and skill at a laboratory accredited for the testing of asbestos following ISO 17025 requirements and it should focus on the finished product.
Most internationally recognized standard analytical methods recommend the use of polarized light microscopy when testing for asbestos in bulk material. Some examples of these international standards include
- Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) 600/R-93/116 [PDF]
- National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) 9002 [PDF]
- International Organization for Standardization (ISO) 22262 [PDF]
Importers, sellers, users and manufacturers of consumer products are responsible for making sure that their products comply with all applicable laws, including the regulations. It is advisable to source raw materials and obtain products from companies that can demonstrate that their raw materials and products are asbestos free.
Enforcement action may be taken in accordance with Environment and Climate Change Canada’s enforcement policy when consumer products containing more than a trace amount of asbestos are identified.
All regulations under the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999 (CEPA) are subject to the Compliance and Enforcement Policy for CEPA.
Questions can be submitted to:
Chemicals Management Division
Environment and Climate Change Canada
Place Vincent Massey, 10th Floor
351 St-Joseph Boulevard
Gatineau, QC K1A 0H3
This document is intended to provide information on the Prohibition of Asbestos and Products Containing Asbestos Regulations. It does not replace the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999, or the Prohibition of Asbestos and Products Containing Asbestos Regulations. In the event of any inconsistencies, the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999, and the Prohibition of Asbestos and Products Containing Asbestos Regulations shall prevail.
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