10 March 2003, Rome -- All
forms of asbestos, the pesticides DNOC, parathion, a severely
hazardous pesticide formulation that is a mixture of benomyl,
thiram and carbofuran, and two highly toxic lead additives used
in gasoline should be added to an international list of
chemicals subject to trade controls.
recommendation was made by a committee of government-appointed
experts under the Rotterdam Convention
recommendation to add five additional forms of asbestos to the
PIC list (one is already listed) was triggered by bans to
protect human health in Australia, Chile and the EU.
Once widely used as insulation for houses and
specialized equipment, asbestos was eliminated in many countries
when it became understood that its tiny fibres were being
inhaled into the lungs of workers and residents. The fibres have
the potential to cause cancer, other illnesses, and death.
Asbestos is still used in seals, gaskets,
joints, brakes, armaments, and other applications, although
cost-effective substitutes are increasingly available for many
A new pesticide to be
included in the PIC list is DNOC, an insecticide, weedkiller and
fungicide. It is highly toxic to humans and also poses a high
risk to other organisms. The review process was initiated by
bans in Peru and the EU.
The review of
the severely hazardous pesticide formulation was initiated by
Senegal. The pesticide formulation contains a mixture of the
fungicides benomyl and thiram and the highly toxic insecticide
carbofuran and is locally sold under the name Granox TBC and
Suspicious of growing reports of
illnesses and deaths, the government of Senegal started to map
incidents of poisoning in rural areas. Its findings pointed the
finger at Granox TBC/Spinox T, which is used in a powdered form
by peanut farmers as a seed treatment. In developed countries
seeds are often treated and planted mechanically, thus
protecting farmers from contact.
developing countries, however, the farmer works without
protective clothing and plants manually, in this case by biting
on each nut to release the seed. The resulting close contact
with the pesticide produced thousands of cases of poisoning
featuring fevers, chest and abdominal pains, vomiting, insomnia
- and a number of deaths.
recommendations on these chemicals will be discussed by the
Intergovernmental Negotiating Committee of the Rotterdam
Convention on the Prior Informed Consent (PIC) Procedure for
certain Hazardous Chemicals and Pesticides in International
Trade, which meets in Geneva (17-21 November). If adopted, these
chemicals will become subject to the Prior Informed Consent
The recommendation to add the
remaining formulations of parathion to the interim PIC procedure
(certain severely hazardous formulations of parathion are
already listed) launches a process that will conclude in late
The Committee's review of the
parathion was triggered by bans in the EU and Australia. Like
other organosphosphorus insecticides, parathion poses an acute
hazard to hundreds of thousands of farm workers, particularly in
developing countries where the lack of protective clothing and
appropriate application equipment makes it more likely that
people will come in direct contact with pesticides. Effects of
poisoning include nausea, diarrhea, blurred vision, and, in
severe cases, respiratory depression, convulsions and death.
Additives in gasoline or
The Committee has also
launched the process for listing tetraethyl and tetramethyl
lead, which are used as additives in gasoline or petrol. It has
been known for many years that lead in petrol or gasoline is a
serious health risk particularly to children.
Studies have demonstrated that children living near
roads and in urban areas where leaded petrol is used, can suffer
permanent brain damage, including lower intelligence scores.
This proposed action under the Rotterdam
Convention is complementary to the recent decision of UNEP
governing council on lead and with the recent Johannesburg
Summit on Sustainable Development and its Plan of Implementation
for leaded petrol. It calls for the rapid global phase out of
this dangerous pollutant by 2005.
Rotterdam Convention was adopted in 1998 under the auspices of
the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and FAO as a
response to increasing awareness of the health and environment
risks associated with hazardous chemicals. In some cases, these
chemicals are able to be used safely in developed countries, but
not in developing countries, where access to protective
equipment may be limited.
The Rotterdam Convention gives importing countries the
tools and information they need to identify potentially
hazardous chemicals and to exclude those they cannot manage
safely. When trade is permitted, requirements for labelling and
the provision of information on potential health and
environmental effects promote the safe use of the chemicals.
While the Convention has not yet entered
into force, in the interim, governments have agreed to apply the
prior informed consent provisions of the Convention on a
voluntary basis. 26 pesticides and 5 industrial chemicals(*)
are subject to the interim PIC procedure. The chemicals
described above represent additional new entries into the
interim PIC procedure.
The interim PIC
procedure covers the following 26 pesticides:
2,4,5-T, aldrin, binapacryl, captafol, chlordane,
chlordimeform, chlorobenzilate, DDT, 1,2-dibromoethane (EDB),
dieldrin, dinoseb, ethylene dichloride, ethylene oxide,
fluoroacetamide, HCH, heptachlor, hexachlorobenzene, lindane,
mercury compounds, pentachlorophenol, toxaphene, plus certain
hazardous formulations of methamidophos, methyl-parathion,
parathion, and phosphamidon When the text of the Rotterdam
Convention was adopted it included also certain hazardous
formulations of monocrotofos, since then all formulations of
monocrotofos have become subject to the Interim PIC procedure.
It also covers five industrial chemicals:
crocidolite, polybrominated biphenyls (PBB), polychlorinated
biphenyls (PCB), polychlorinated terphenyls (PCT) and tris (2,3
Information Officer, FAO
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