UN treaty to include Chrysotile Asbestos in Hazardous Chemicals watch list
New Delhi/22/10/2008: Three hazardous chemicals including cancer causing Chrysotile Asbestos, tributyltin compounds and endosulfan are slated for inclusion in the UN list.
The fourth meeting of the Conference of the Parties (COP-4) of the UN's Rotterdam Convention on the Prior Informed Consent Procedure (PIC) for Certain Hazardous Chemicals and Pesticides in International Trade commenced today at the headquarters of the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) in Rome, Italy. The meeting would conclude its session on 31 October.
Efforts by over 120 countries are on to add three hazardous chemicals – including the world's most widely used form of asbestos – to a trade "watch list" under this UN-backed treaty. It is aimed at helping developing countries more effectively manage potentially harmful imported substances.
There are 39 substances on the Rotterdam Convention's international trade watch list, under which an exporting nation must ensure no substance on the list leaves its territory without the consent of the recipient country. The watch list is formally known as the Prior Informed Consent (PIC) Procedure for Certain Hazardous Chemicals and Pesticides in International Trade.
The member states of UN will consider adding two pesticides – endosulfan and tributyl tin compounds – and the industrial chemical chrysotile asbestos to the PIC list in Rome.
The Convention is designed to ensure that hazardous chemicals do not endanger human health and the environment but inclusion on the list is not a recommendation for an international ban or severe restriction of the use of the substance.
Chrysotile asbestos, which is widely used in building materials, accounts for some 94 per cent of global asbestos production. The UN World Health Organization (WHO) has identified it as a human carcinogen, and reports that at least 90,000 people die each year of asbestos-related diseases such as lung cancer and mesothelioma. And International Labour Organisation has called for the elimination of its use.
A number of countries, including some that continue to mine and export chrysotile asbestos, blocked its addition to the PIC list when the Parties to the Convention last met in 2006 and further opposition is expected at next week's meeting, according to FAO. India is the largest importers and consumers of Canadian and Russian asbestos to the detriment of its citizens and workers.
Indian Environment & Health Ministry along with trade unions & environmental groups have appealed to the Ministry of Chemicals to support the inclusion of Chrysotile Asbestos in the list of hazardous chemicals but Indian officials at the UN meeting in Rome are all set to disregard the public interest concerns and be guided by the industry.
Ministry of Chemicals is turning a blind eye towards how the atmosphere around asbestos factory and asbestos products becomes poisonous. Out of 110 signatories to the UN treaty, 105 favour the inclusion of Chrysotile asbestos in PIC list, but India does not want it. India is also a part to the treaty.
When the matter comes for discussion on 23 October, Head of the Indian delegation R H Khawaja, Additional Secretary, Ministry of Environment is all set to oppose the listing of Chrysotile asbestos and endosulphan in the PIC list for hazardous chemicals and pesticides. Indian government's delegation is under tremendous pressure from the representatives of Indian Chemical Industry and Chrysotile asbestos industry who are also dictating government's official position.
COP-4 will address those issues which eluded consensus during the last meeting of the Conference of the Parties, namely, mechanisms and procedures for non-compliance and the inclusion of chrysotile asbestos in Annex III of the Convention, as well as ways to ensure the continued effectiveness of the Convention.
A high-level segment is scheduled for 30–31 October, where Ministers and heads of delegation will hold panel discussions on the theme: "Sound chemicals management: relieving the burden on public health".
The meeting will also consider the inclusion of tributyltin compounds and endosulfan in Annex III of the Convention; and the recommendations of the Ad Hoc Joint Working Group on Enhancing Cooperation and Coordination among the Basel, Rotterdam and Stockholm conventions.
For Details: Gopal Krishna, Ban Asbestos Network of India (BANI), Mb: 9818089660, E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
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