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.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Fatal white asbestos not on toxic list yet

INTERNATIONAL trade in Chrysotile asbestos will continue unhindered, as main players in this trade including Canada and India have blocked a decision to put this substance in the list of toxics whose trade is restricted under UN- sponsored treaty on hazardous chemicals.

The proposal to include Chrysotile asbestos in the list of toxic substances was postponed for lack of consensus at the fourth meeting of the Conference of the Parties of the Rotterdam Convention on the Prior Informed Consent Procedure ( PIC) for Certain Hazardous Chemicals and Pesticides in International Trade, which ended in Rome on Friday.

The 1998 convention requires exporters of certain hazardous substances to obtain PIC from importers, a measure meant to ensure that poorer countries do not let in products they may prefer to avoid. While inclusion on the so- called PIC list does not ban those products, it does highlight their highly toxic nature.

The convention is not about banning substances — it is about obligatory consent before import or export of the chemicals.

Chrysotile is the only type of asbestos that is still widely used, mainly in building products in developing countries.

" Russia, India, Pakistan and Canada compelled the UN conference to miss the opportunity to list chrysotile ( white) asbestos for the fourth time," said Gopal Krishna, a member of the Rotterdam Convention Alliance, who was an observer at the meeting. " These countries are blocking the will of the overwhelming majority of the countries.

They are putting trade before human health. The reasons they give are completely illogical and obstructive", he added.

" In an act of manifest sophistry and insincerity, officials of the ministry of environment argued that strategies for global chemicals management must respect nations' sovereign right to use chemicals for the national good, taking into account both socioeconomic and environmental concerns," Krishna pointed out.

Bakary Kante, an official of the United Nations Environment Programme, said the convention is not about banning chemicals, but rather informed chemicals' management.

Chrysotile asbestos — widely used in building materials - accounts for about 94 per cent of global asbestos production. The 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. The International Labour Organisation ( ILO) has also called for end to its use.

" India's position at Rome meeting is disgraceful. Not only does it not protect its own people from harm, India also denies other countries, especially poorer countries to protect its people from harm by depriving them of information," said Madhumita Dutta of corporate accountability desk of The Other Media, a Chennai- based NGO.

November 1, 2008

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