Chrysotile asbestos to be considered for trade “watch list”
Protecting human health and environment from hazardous chemicals
5 October 2006, Rome/Geneva – Officials from over 100 governments will meet in Geneva next week to decide whether to add chrysotile asbestos – which accounts for some 94% of global asbestos consumption – to a trade watch list* that already contains 39 hazardous substances, including all other forms of asbestos.
Established under the Rotterdam Convention on the Prior Informed Consent (PIC) Procedure for certain Hazardous Chemicals and Pesticides in International Trade, the so-called PIC list promotes transparency and information sharing about possible risks. It does not impose any bans.
Last February, a technical panel of experts determined that chrysotile meets the Convention’s conditions for listing. A key requirement is that two countries from two different regions of the world must have banned or severely restricted the particular chemical.
“Protecting people and the environment from hazardous chemicals and pesticides requires a robust system for sharing information about risks and safety procedures. To remain relevant, the Convention will need to evolve to address commercially valuable substances that can be dangerous unless the necessary precautions are understood and adopted,” said Executive Director Achim Steiner of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP).
“The implementation of the Rotterdam Convention enables parties to protect human health and the environment from unwanted pesticides. We need to build a strong and effective regime at national level that can keep pace with the dramatic growth in both world trade and chemicals use,” said Alexander Müller, Officer-in-Charge of the Department of Agriculture, Biosecurity, Nutrition and Consumer Protection, of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), which, together with UNEP, provides the Convention’s secretariat.
Under the Convention, exports of chemicals and pesticides on the list require the prior informed consent of the importing country. This gives developing countries in particular the power to decide which potentially hazardous chemicals or pesticides they want to receive and to exclude those they cannot manage safely. Exporting countries are responsible for ensuring that no exports leave their territory when an importing country has made the decision not to accept the chemical or pesticide in question.
The International Labour Organization (ILO) adopted a Resolution earlier this year calling for the elimination of all uses of chrysotile. The resolution reflected the World Health Organization's concern that chrysotile is associated with many thousands of deaths around the world from lung cancer and mesothelomia.
Other issues on the agenda of the Third Meeting of the Conference of the Parties to the Rotterdam Convention (COP 3) are technical assistance, financing, non-compliance, and cooperation with other treaties and organizations.
The Fourth Meeting of the COP will take place in 2008, when Governments will decide on the next round of proposed additions to the watch list. One of these proposals involves tributyl tin (TBT), which is used in anti-fouling paints for ship hulls and is toxic to fish, molluscs and other organisms. The other addresses endosulfan, a pesticide that is widely used around the world, particularly for cotton.
Some 70,000 different chemicals are available on the market today, and around 1,500 new ones are introduced every year. This can pose a major challenge to regulators charged with monitoring and managing these potentially dangerous substances. Many pesticides that have been banned or whose use has been severely restricted in industrialized countries are still marketed and used in developing countries.
The Geneva conference runs from 9 to 13 October at the Geneva International Conference Center. For more information, please see www.pic.int or contact the UNEP or FAO press office.
* The Convention’s list includes the following hazardous pesticides: 2,4,5-T, aldrin, binapacryl, captafol, chlordane, chlordimeform, chlorobenzilate, DDT, DNOC and its salts, ethylene dichloride, ethylene oxide 1,2-dibromoethane (EDB), dieldrin, dinoseb, fluoroacetamide, HCH, heptachlor, hexachlorobenzene, lindane, mercury compounds, monocrotophos, parathion, pentachlorophenol and toxaphene, plus certain formulations of methamidophos, methyl-parathion, and phosphamidon, as well as dustable-powder formulations containing a combination of benomyl at or above 7 per cent, carbofuran at or above 10 per cent and thiram at or above 15 per cent. It also covers eleven industrial chemicals: five forms of asbestos (actinolite, anthophyllite, amosite, crocidolite and tremolite), polybrominated biphenyls (PBB), polychlorinated biphenyls (PCB), polychlorinated terphenyls (PCT) tetraethyl lead, tetramethyl lead and tris (2,3 dibromopropyl) phosphate.
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