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Russia helps block export restriction on asbestos

PTI Geneva | Updated on January 23, 2018 Published on May 16, 2015

chrysotile-Asbestos   -  Wikipedia



Four countries including Russia have blocked a bid to add chrysotile asbestos to a list of dangerous substances subject to export restrictions, participants at a UN meeting in Geneva said today.

Russia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Zimbawe opposed listing the mineral also known as white asbestos, which health experts say causes cancer, on the Rotterdam Convention list, according to groups attending the Geneva meeting that wrapped up today.

India has long vehemently opposed adding chrysotile to the Rotterdam Convention list, but did not in the end join the four countries officially opposing its inclusion.

The 1998 Rotterdam Convention restricts trade in chemicals by obliging exporters to ensure that destination countries have been fully informed about the risks involved and have given an explicit green light for imports.

Civil society groups and unions calling for chrysotile’s inclusion on the list voiced outrage that the fifth attempt in a decade to do so had been blocked.

“The failure to list chrysotile asbestos means millions of exposed workers will stay ignorant of its deadly dangers,” said Brian Kohler, head of health, security and sustainable development for the IndustriALL Global Union.

“Countries that support the listing must be more aggressive in preventing the Rotterdam Convention from remaining a farce,” he told AFP in an email.

The Rotterdam Convention requires full consensus by all signatory members, meaning a single country can block a bid to list a new substance.

The Geneva meeting did manage to add the insecticide methamidophos to the list, according to conference organisers, but failed to list a range of other chemicals, including the pesticide paraquat, which studies have linked to Parkinson’s disease.

The question of whether or not to list chrysotile asbestos and the other chemicals where consensus was not reached will likely be raised again at the next conference on the Rotterdam Convention in 2017.

According to the World Health Organisation, at least 107,000 people die each year from asbestos-related cancers and lung diseases such as asbestosis and mesothelioma.

Some 125 million people are exposed to asbestos at work, according to WHO, mainly in mines, and on construction sites.

Sharad Sawant, a 75-year-old former asbestos worker at a Turner and Newall asbestos factory in Mumbai, came to Geneva to lobby for listing chrysotile, after he and his wife both were diagnosed with asbestosis.

“My children know I’m suffering and that their mother is suffering,” he told reporters through a translator, voicing concern his adult children and even grandchildren may have been exposed.

“This is the fault of the asbestos company,” he said.

Published on May 16, 2015
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