The McGill University Health Centre, a hospital which prides itself on adhering to strict environmental guidelines for constructing its new hospital, faces to lose it’s “green” status for using asbestos fibers in its drainage pipes.

The hospital is still striving to maintain its status as environmentally friendly and has announced that it would seek at least “silver status,” in the internationally recognized Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification system. The Canada Green Buildings Council, the authority on LEED certification standards, clearly prohibits the use of asbestos in new construction. On the contrary, credit towards a LEED certification is given for the removal of the dangerous substance.

SNC-Lavalin, the firm responsible for the construction of the pipes, has made no statement regarding the issue, according to the Montreal Gazette. The MUHC however, has released a statement defending the choice to use asbestos in the construction project, saying that there will be no danger of asbestos fibers circulating the air in the hospital. The statement goes on to say that the pipes in question contain only around 13 percent asbestos, will be used specifically for the purpose of draining stormwater and pose no risk of emitting particles into the air due to their rigidity. Furthermore, the statement claims that the Quebec Safety Code of Construction does permit the use of asbestos in construction as long as the material is “non-friable.”

MUHC acknowledges that the use of asbestos in the construction carries a risk, but only during the construction process.

“The only risks associated… occur when cutting pipes. But these risks are will controlled and all precautions are taking in accordance with the guidelines…”

Asbestos has already been declared by the World Health Organization (WHO) as one of the most dangerous occupational substances. Left undisturbed, the substance is harmless, but once it’s microscopic fibers are released into the air, they can be inhaled and embedded into the lungs. Asbestos exposure can result in mesothelioma cancer as well as other lung cancers. In use until the 1970s, the substance has since been banned in over 50 countries, as government and health organizations try to reduce the occurrence of asbestos exposure.

Where asbestos is still in use, it is often because it is cheaper than the other alternatives. Furthermore, contractors that fail to properly abate asbestos from their sites often do so because the process is costly and tedious. According to the Montreal Gazette, the MUHC statement said that there is “no data available about the costs or savings” as a result of the use of asbestos as the construction site.


About Robert Sanchez

Robert Sanchez is a retired health practitioner who prefers to blog during his spare time. After watching a family member battle cancer, he shifted his focus toward learning about and fighting the disease. He prefers to educate those around him, and has found this blog to be a great opportunity for just that.