Three national health organizations joined the call Wednesday asking Canada to ban the export of Canadian asbestos, as well as to ensure that the industry is not revived.

The Canadian Medical Association, the Canadian Public Health Association and the National Specialty Society for Community Medicine want the federal and provincial governments to stop mining asbestos, calling the substance a health hazard.

They also backed the Canadian Cancer Society's appeal earlier this week to Quebec Premier Jean Charest to dismiss a $58-million loan guarantee request from one Quebec producer.

The groups say asbestos is just plain dangerous, yet while it's rarely used in Canada, the country still actively promotes exports to developing countries, where health regulations are lax.

It's estimated that 96 per cent of the output from the country's two remaining asbestos mines in Quebec is for export.

"It's inconceivable that we would restrict the use of asbestos in our own country but continue to export this hazardous product around the world," says Dr. Anne Doig, president of the Canadian Medical Association.

The groups note that more than 40 countries, including all European Union members, have banned the use of all forms of asbestos, including chrysotile mined in Quebec.

There say there is clear scientific evidence that exposure to asbestos through mining, processing and use can lead to lung cancer, scarring of the lungs and mesothelioma (cancer of the chest cavity).

The Canadian Cancer Society notes that 90,000 people die annually around the world from diseases linked to asbestos exposure, and that Quebec asbestos is a major contributor.

The cancer society has been lobbying Ottawa to eliminate asbestos exposure in the country by phasing out the industry and creating a national registry of buildings that still contain the substance.

The organization contacted Charest after receiving numerous letters and emails of concern from Canadian and international health advocates.

Supporters of the chrysotile asbestos industry contend the substance is safe when handled properly.

With reports from The Canadian Press