No asbestos ban this year at the Rotterdam Convention

This year’s Rotterdam Convention was a disappointment for foes of asbestos and mesothelioma: though the 141 nations involved agreed to add three pesticides — alachlor, aldicarb and endosulfan — to a list of 40 chemicals it considers hazardous, they could not reach a consensus on asbestos.

Chrysotile asbestos, the fourth chemical up for consideration for addition to the list, was not banned. An international asbestos ban has been the dream of many health advocates worldwide, especially those in devloping coutnries, where environmental regulations are minimal. Several nations including Canada and the Ukraine—two of the largest miners and producers of asbestos—opposed adding asbestos to the list.

One Canadian mesothelioma widow wrote into the Vancouver Sun:

“We all feel the shame for our government’s refusal to sign the Rotterdam Convention, which would have warned unprotected workers and the general populations in developing countries that Canadian chrysotile asbestos is a highly dangerous carcinogen.”

Her largest complaint was that not only did Canada block the addition of asbestos to the list of hazardous chemicals, they refuse to properly label their products: “Their present labels do not even meet Canadian workplace hazardous materials information system standards for the handling of asbestos. There are only hard-to-read warnings in French and English, which is unacceptable when shipping to developing countries where workers do not speak or read French or English.”

According to the Washington Post, the treaty [Rotterdam Convention] “aims to improve the information that is exchanged during international trade in chemicals that have been banned or restricted, so that importers and consumers can be better informed.” By failing to add asbestos to their list, the Convention did not accomplish their aims their year.

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