Geneva – Four countries, including Russia, have blocked a bid to add chrysotile asbestos to a list of hazardous substances subject to export restrictions, participants at a UN meeting in Geneva said on Saturday.
Russia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Zimbabwe have opposed listing the mineral also known as white asbestos, which health experts say causes cancer, on the Convention’s list. Rotterdam, according to groups attending the Geneva meeting which ended on Saturday.
The 1998 Rotterdam Convention restricts trade in chemicals by obliging exporters to ensure that destination countries have been fully informed of the risks involved and have given an explicit green light to imports.
Civil society groups and trade unions calling for chrysotile to be listed have expressed outrage that the fifth attempt in a decade has been blocked.
“Chrysotile asbestos not being listed means millions of exposed workers will remain unaware of its deadly dangers,” said Brian Kohler, health, safety and sustainability manager for IndustriALL Global. Union.
“Countries that support listing need to be more aggressive to prevent the Rotterdam Convention from remaining a farce,” he told AFP in an email.
The Rotterdam Convention requires full consensus from all signatory members, which means that only one country can block an offer to list a new substance.
The Geneva meeting managed to add the insecticide methamidophos to the list, according to conference organizers, but failed to list a range of other chemicals, including the pesticide paraquat, which studies have linked. to Parkinson’s disease.
The issue of whether or not to list chrysotile asbestos and other chemicals for which consensus has not been reached will likely be raised again at the next Rotterdam Convention conference in 2017.
Alexandra Caterbow, co-coordinator of the Rotterdam Convention Alliance, warned the meeting that delaying the listing of chrysotile would have disastrous consequences.