Reporting asbestos in public buildings is now mandatory in Saskatchewan. It is the first province in Canada to pass such legislation.
Information regarding asbestos will have to be disclosed in a public registry under the new law. There will be a six-month grace period to comply, according to the province.
Buildings owned by the province — such as hospitals, schools, or those used by Crown corporations — must be listed in the registry if there is asbestos present. Buildings will be added to the registry as regulations become better defined.
"People want and deserve to have easier access to information about the presence of asbestos in public buildings," said Minister of Health Dustin Duncan.
In November 2012, Saskatchewan launched a voluntary registry of public buildings that are known to contain asbestos and posted a new online asbestos information guide. The move was in response to the efforts of Howard Willems, an advocate for public reporting of asbestos, who died from a rare form of cancer caused by inhaling asbestos fibres.
The new law is part of The Public Health Amendment Act, but often referred to as “Howard’s Law,” named after Willems.
Asbestos is typically found in building materials such as insulation and has health risks only when fibres are present in the air, according to Health Canada. It is not considered harmful if undisturbed, but renovations or construction work stirs up hazardous fibres that can be inhaled.