Russia and China Resist Banning Asbestos

Russia and Canada blocked the proposed ban on Asbestos export. This partisan attempt of some nations is a major setback for health activists and victims of asbestos poisoning and mesothelioma cancer. In the Rotterdam Convention, some nations under the leadership of Russia and Canada lobbied successfully against the ban on asbestos exports. These countries thwarted a move for placing Chrysotile Asbestos on the worldwide list of toxic chemicals. Both the countries opposing this move are major asbestos producers.

Chrysotile Asbestos or white asbestos is the most common form of asbestos and accounts for nearly 90% of the total asbestos products. Chrysotile asbestos finds application in roofing material, compounds and ceilings. In 2003, Rotterdam Convention added four types of asbestos, other than Chrysolite, to the worldwide list of toxic chemicals and export restriction list. The countries opposing the ban placed arguments that Chrysolite is relatively safe.

However, asbestos in all forms is dangerous and there are no safe levels of exposure. Even minute levels of asbestos exposure and inhalation could result in serious asbestos diseases like mesothelioma cancers, asbestosis and lung cancer. Exposure to Chrysotile asbestos could also lead to all these diseases.

Activists opposing Chrysotile Asbestos contend that Canadian and Russian objections are selfish, self-interested and protective of their domestic exporters. It is noteworthy that in the year 2003 Russia and Canada produced 878,000 and 240,000 tons of asbestos, respectively. United States imports about 97% of its asbestos products from Canada. Asbestos imports in 2003 totaled $570 million and consisted mainly of cement, pipes and tiles.

Rotterdam Convention places a substance on toxic list after countries of at least two regions take actions to restrict or ban it. Convention’s committee agrees that it is unsafe and all members unanimously agree for export restrictions. In this case, Australia, Chile, and the European Community had imposed restrictions and convention’s committee has agreed that Chrysolite is hazardous. However, the export restrictions could not be imposed because Russia, Canada, Indonesia, Zimbabwe, Columbia, Mexico, Iran, Ghana, India, and China opposed the ban.

Close Menu