Over 100 delegates from around the world currently attending the Rotterdam Convention, in Geneva, Switzerland, have once more attempted to recommend that chrysotile white asbestos be included on the Prior Informed Consent list for hazardous materials. Although, this action would not impose a ban on the export of the toxic mineral, it would mean permission would have to be specifically sought by importers in asbestos-using countries.

However, the latest news confirms that this third attempt to place white asbestos alongside many other listed dangerous substances on the Prior Informed Consent list has once again failed. As in previous attempts made in 2006 and 2008, major opposition came from Canada, a leading global exporter of 90 per cent of its’ mined chrysotile to the developing world.

Although no official votes were taken under the Rotterdam Convention rules of procedure, Sudan joined with both India and Ukraine in announcing their change of position to give support, while Vietnam, Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan stood alongside Canada in opposing the recommendation. Under the Convention’s current rules of procedure, the material may not be put on the List (Annex 3) unless all countries present are in agreement.

Disappointment and concern was expressed by Linda Reinstein, president and CEO of Asbestos Disease Awareness Organization (ADAO) by the “ … inability of the delegates to reach a consensus … the indisputable facts from the World Health Organization leave no room for doubt, that asbestos is a human carcinogen and there is no safe level of exposure,”

While praising those countries whose asbestos awareness of the fatal health hazards had led them to respond positively and change their position, the ADAO President also said, “ … given the scientific data available and the vocal opposition of Canadian citizens to chrysotile asbestos … I’m appalled and disgusted to see politics compromise public health so horrifically. We must prevent asbestos exposure to eliminate deadly asbestos-caused diseases.”

Since the late 1970s and 80s, the UK, US and around 50 other countries had enforced a ban on asbestos manufacture, use and export. However, evidence for the use of white asbestos still continued in the UK construction industries right up until late 1990s despite being prohibited in 1992. Meanwhile, countries such as Canada, Russia and China continued to increase the mining and export of chrysotile asbestos.

It has actually been shown that worldwide production had actually ballooned by over 2.1 million tons by the year, 2000 to meet commercial demand. As a consequence, it is predicted that asbestos-related disease, such as asbestosis and the incurable cancer, mesothelioma are set to rise in the coming decades with a death toll of around 10 million by 2030.