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29 May 2017

Chrysotile asbestos blocked for 6th time from the Rotterdam Convention

The fight to impose tough trade restrictions on chrysotile asbestos will have to wait at least another two years. For the sixth consecutive time, a handful of countries blocked the inclusion of the carcinogenic mineral from the Rotterdam Convention Hazardous Substances list (Annex 3). Chemicals on the list are subject to restrictions that prevent the export of a product without the prior consent of the importing country.

Representatives from 157 countries met in Geneva, Switzerland, for the eighth Conference of the Parties (COP8) to the Rotterdam Convention. The biannual meeting drew to a close May 5.

Despite the vast majority of countries voting to include chrysotile — or white asbestos — to the list, seven countries — Russia, Kazakhstan, Zimbabwe, India, Kyrgyzstan, Belarus and Syria — blocked the attempt to include chrysotile under the convention.

More than 100,000 people die each year from asbestos-related health conditions.

For more than a decade, a small group of countries have blocked the wishes of the rest of the world to put stricter regulations on the exportation of chrysotile — the most common type of commercial asbestos and the only type not already on the list.

Russia, the world’s largest producer of asbestos, leads the charge. Asbestos production in Russia totalled 1.1 million metric tons in 2016 and has been on the rise since 2010.

At COP8, representatives from the European Union, Australia and other nations raised concerns over the “archaic” voting procedures of Annex III, citing that it is endangering millions of people who continue to be unnecessarily exposed to asbestos.

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