May 2013 concluded the sixth meeting of the Rotterdam Conference. This conference discusses and votes on changes to the Rotterdam Convention, a multinational treaty promoting shared responsibilities between countries in relation to importation of hazardous materials. This group determines what materials and chemicals are added to a Prior Informed Consent (PIC) procedure.
What is the PIC?
This procedure requires that materials considered dangerous must be clearly labeled as being hazardous in order to help protect workers and those who would otherwise be exposed.
Currently this procedure covers five types of asbestos: Actinolite, Anthophyllite, Amosite, Crocidolite, and Tremolite. A proposal to include the mineral chrysotile asbestos to this list was defeated at the 2013 conference. Of 143 countries attending the conference, seven countries: India, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, the Russian Federation, Ukraine, Vietnam, and Zimbabwe, opposed the listing of chrysotile asbestos as a hazardous material which lead to the defeat.
While the World Health Organization and other authorities like the United State’s EPA state that, based upon multiple lines of scientific evidence, all forms of asbestos are harmful to human health, these 7 countries continue to claim that chrysotile asbestos is safe, or that it is safe when handled correctly.
The following quote reveals the source of the defeat, “Chrysotile asbestos is recognized by every leading world scientific body as a cause of asbestosis, lung cancer and mesothelioma, as have all other forms of commercially used asbestos that are currently listed on the PIC List,” said Richard Lemen, Ph.D., MSPH, Assistant Surgeon General (ret.), Rear Admiral, USPHS (ret.); Adjunct Professor, Rollins School of Public Health, Emory University. “But because chrysotile asbestos remains the only type of asbestos commercially exploited, those countries having a financial stake in its continued use have placed profit and greed over the protection of the public’s health, in order to promote this carcinogenic product. Today, a few countries have again blocked chrysotile’s listing on the PIC by claiming it is not hazardous and can be used safely. It is a farce for them to suggest continued ‘controlled use’ since by blocking its listing, the consumer is never informed of chrysotile’s hazardous nature. Thus, the pandemic of asbestos-induced diseases that the world is currently experiencing will continue to grow as thousands more uninformed users of this cancerous material will face disease and death in their future. The action of these few countries represents a callous disregard for human dignity and life.”
The fight continues.
Linda Reinstein, Co-Founder and President of the Asbestos Disease Awareness Organization (ADAO) promised, “Asbestos victims around the world will not be silenced by thugs and criminals profiting from the deadly toxic trade. Instead, we will turn our grief, pain, and anger into action as we continue global educational and advocacy initiatives to collaboratively ensure chrysotile asbestos will be added to the PIC List at the 2015 Rotterdam Convention.”