Make India Asbestos Free

Make India Asbestos Free
For Asbestos Free India

Journal of Ban Asbestos Network of India (BANI). Asbestos Free India campaign of BANI is inspired by trade union movement and right to health campaign. BANI has been working since 2000. It works with peoples movements, doctors, researchers and activists besides trade unions, human rights, environmental, consumer and public health groups. BANI demands criminal liability for companies and medico-legal remedy for victims.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Canada still blocking action on asbestos

Canada still blocking action on asbestos

The federal government is expected to continue blocking international efforts to place the chrysotile variety of asbestos, the type mined in Quebec, on the UN's list of the world's worst substances, at a high-level international meeting next month.

A group of public-health and environmental activists tried before the election call to have the Harper government announce whether it would change its position to supporting action against chrysotile, but was rebuffed.

The group says the Liberals, who have been trying to burnish their environmental credentials through their Green Shift program, also declined to support the listing. That suggests that regardless of which of the two major parties wins the election, Canada's controversial position at the United Nations body, known as the Rotterdam Convention, is unlikely to change.

The parties "won't say, but it's very implicit, because they're concerned about votes in Quebec, they're not going to support the convention," said Kathleen Ruff, co-ordinator of the Rotterdam Convention Alliance.

Yesterday, the group released letters signed by dozens of prominent Canadian and foreign public-health experts appealing to both Liberal Leader Stéphane Dion and Conservative Leader Stephen Harper to reconsider Canada's efforts to promote chrysotile.

Exposure to the fibrous mineral is linked to asbestosis, lung cancer and other cancers.

At the last meeting of the convention in 2006, Canada led a group of countries including Iran, Zimbabwe and Kyrgyzstan in blocking the listing.

Had it been listed, chrysotile would have been placed on the roster of substances considered so dangerous that any importing country would be required to give prior informed consent showing that it knows it's buying an extremely dangerous material before any shipments would be allowed.

About 95 per cent of Canadian asbestos is exported. The federal government opposed listing, arguing that with appropriate safeguards, the Third World countries that buy nearly all of the country's output can minimize health risks.

Both the NDP and the Greens back listing, according to Ms.Ruff a former director of the B.C. Human Rights Commission. Her group didn't canvass the Bloc Québécois.

The Rotterdam Convention lists 39 hazardous materials that are banned or severely restricted for either health or environmental reasons, including the insecticide DDT, compounds containing the nerve toxin mercury, and PCBs - industrial chemicals linked to intelligence impairments in children.

The convention was established in part to prevent Third World countries from becoming dumping grounds for dangerous substances no longer acceptable for use in advanced Western countries.

The meeting in late October, to be held in Rome, will also discuss listing endosulfan, a highly toxic pesticide, and tributyltin, an anti-fouling material for boat hulls that is such a powerful hormone disruptor it causes exposed female snails to develop penises.

The decision by Canada and its allies to block action on chrysotile has caused the UN to circulate proposals for revising the way the convention operates.

One proposal up for discussion at the meeting would be for the UN body to create a second list of substances on which the countries can't agree.

The Globe and Mail
10 Sep 2008
Page: A10
Section: National News
Byline: Martin Mittelstaedt

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