Residents in the Canadian town of Asbestos have voted to rename their community to distance it from the once-ubiquitous mineral now recognised as being extremely poisonous and linked to lung and other cancers.
The town, formerly home to one of the world’s largest asbestos mines, voted 51.5% in favour of changing its name to Val-des-Sources over five other options, according to results announced on Monday from a four-day referendum.
“It’s a name that represents our area, and especially, it’s inspiring for the future,” said the Quebec town’s mayor, Hugues Grimard.
The new name, which means Valley of the Sources in English, refers to its location at the confluence of three lakes and represents “the fusion of our history and our roots,” according to the town’s description.
The community, 93 miles (150km) east of Montreal and home to about 7,000 people, was built in the late 1870s after the discovery of an asbestos deposit led to the creation of the mine.
The mineral was for years considered essential as fireproof insulation but by the early 1970s was widely recognised as the primary cause of mesothelioma among workers involved in producing it and in industries that used it in their products.
The mine ceased operations in 2011.
“Once upon a time, we have been very proud of that name, but now it’s very difficult because asbestos means a fibre that people are afraid of,” Louise Moisan-Coulombe, mayor of the town from 1997 to 2002, told the Canadian Broadcasting Corp on Sunday.
“Every time you say, especially in the United States, that you are coming from Asbestos, or they read Asbestos on a package, they are always afraid that it will be poison.”
The town council approved the name on Monday night, although the alteration has several bureaucratic hoops to jump through. Grimard said he hoped the name change would be made official before December.