Asbestos industry sabotages UN Rotterdam Convention

Thu, May 4, 2017


Kathleen Ruff,

At the 8th Conference of the Parties to the Rotterdam Convention, taking place in Geneva this week, a tiny number of countries – Russia, Kazakhstan, Zimbabwe, India, Kyrgyzstan, Belarus and Syria – thumbed their noses at the scientific evidence and the wishes of the rest of the world and refused to allow chrysotile asbestos to be put on the Convention’s list of hazardous substances.

The Rotterdam Convention requires countries to obtain Prior Informed Consent from any country to which they wish to export a hazardous substance on the Convention’s list. The Convention thus provides a basic democratic right that enables countries to  better protect their populations and environment.

The Rotterdam Convention requires decisions to put a hazardous substance on its list to be made by consensus. For more than a decade, a handful of countries that profit from the asbestos trade, have denied consensus and thus sabotaged the Convention.

Parties to the Convention agreed a decade ago that chrysotile asbestos met all the criteria for listing. The Convention’s expert scientific committee has for a decade called for chrysotile asbestos to be put on the Convention’s list. As the World Health Organization stated at the conference in Geneva this week, evidence that chrysotile asbestos is carcinogenic is “conclusive and overwhelming.”

A dozen African countries have proposed amending the Convention to allow a decision to list a hazardous substance to be taken by a ¾ majority vote, if consensus proves impossible, as is allowed under the Basel and Stockholm Conventions, that also deal with hazardous substances.

It is to be hoped that in the remaining two days of the conference, countries will approve the amendment. The Rotterdam Convention can be amended by a 3/4 majority vote.

If the Convention is not amended, it will be seen as a failed Convention. For more than a decade, the Convention has protected the profits of the asbestos industry, instead of human and environmental health. If the Convention is not amended, this injustice will continue endlessly and the Convention will lose all credibility.

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One Response to “Asbestos industry sabotages UN Rotterdam Convention”

  1. Dr. Mahmood Says:

    There was a question if the BRS 2017 convention was for “PROFIT or PEOPLE>”
    We got the answer now – NOT for people health and environment protection, despite WHO referred statement – evidence that chrysotile asbestos is carcinogenic is “conclusive and overwhelming.”
    Most disappointing, discouraging and sad….
    It’s time for amendment of RC, as proposed by African countries.

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