Asbestos toxic, says India

Friday 15 July 2011

Changes stand on mineral at Rotterdam Convention

imageIN WHAT could prove to be a breakthrough in containing environmental impacts of white asbestos globally, India has agreed to label the mineral hazardous under the UN’s Rotterdam Convention. This is a historic shift in stance, as India has always claimed there was not sufficient data on the health risks of chrysotile asbestos.



Listing of chrysotile asbestos in Annex III of the Rotterdam Convention or the Prior Informed Consent (PIC) list will mandate the exporting countries to share information on the hazards of the mineral with the importing countries.

India announced its position on June 22, the third day of the 5th Conference of Parties (COP) of the Convention in Geneva, at a meeting of contact groups set up to discuss listing of chrysotile asbestos in the absence of a consensus. It received a standing ovation at the plenary meeting for changing its stand.

India was also nominated as chair for a smaller group to discuss and influence the position of Ukraine, Kazakhstan, Vietnam and other countries opposing the listing. What has triggered the change in stance remains a mystery. Some activists attribute it to the constant pressure they applied on the government and the ban recommended by the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC).

“This is a major breakthrough in ending the deadlock,” says Alexandra Caterbow, co-coordinator of Rotterdam Convention Alliance (ROCA). ROCA is an alliance of more than 500 environmental, health and labour groups from across the globe. “India’s change in position will have considerable influence in changing the opinion of the dissenting countries. Hopefully, chrysotile asbestos will be included in the PIC list by COP 5,” Caterbow adds.

In the third and fourth COPs, the Convention’s Chemical Review Committee had recommended inclusion of chrysotile asbestos in the list. But India, along with Kyrgyzstan and Vietnam, obstructed the addition, citing inadequate health risk data.

The COP meeting was to decide on the inclusion of chrysotile asbestos along with the pesticide endosulfan, herbicide alachlor and insecticide aldicarb in the list. The four-day meeting began on June 20. The Rotterdam Convention on the PIC Procedure for Certain Hazardous Chemicals and Pesticides in International Trade is a tool to protect humans and the environment by controlling trade of hazardous chemicals.

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  • Im so happy India made this

    Im so happy India made this statement last year. This is a really good step towards eradicating asbestos. Asbestos is still a huge global business because developing countries still import and use it in construction! So if more and more become aware of its dangers, then maybe they can build their countries on better foundations.

    Posted by: Anonymous | 6 years ago | Reply
  • There are still factories

    There are still factories producing asbestos products in India, and they have caused health problems to the workers in those factories, along with villagers who stay in close proximity to the factories. Because the government has not acknowledged the harmful effects, the factories were allowed to continue running despite complaints. Now, they might have to shut down, and I think it will be welcomed news for people being affected. Mark

    Posted by: Anonymous | 6 years ago | Reply
  • Glad to see India's change in

    Glad to see India's change in stance! This is a large problem for developing countries and we all know how dangerous asbestos can be. This is a step in the right direction. Posted by: Anonymous | 4 years ago | Reply

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