Chrysotile Among Hazardous Substances Considered for UN Watch List

Chrysotile is the most prevalent form of asbestos in use in the modern world, and it joins two pesticides — endosulfan and tributyl tin compounds — that will be examined to determine if their toxicities warrant them all places on the United Nations (UN) watch list of hazardous materials. Once known as the Prior Informed Consent (PIC) Procedure for Certain Hazardous Chemicals and Pesticides in International Trade, the hazardous substances watch list requires exporting nations to have the prior approval of the recipient country before sending any of the 39 materials currently on the list.

The goal is to assist those who might prefer to pay a lower price for these materials to become aware of the real cost in human lives and to the environment of these substances. Being included on the watch list does not require a ban of the material or any restrictions in its trade aside from prior consent for international shipping. Those toxins on the list are being highlighted by the United Nations as having detrimental effects on the environment and human health. Chrysotile makes up 94 percent of the asbestos use in the world. Asbestos is a known carcinogen, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).

Every year 90,000 lives are lost as a direct result of exposure to asbestos. Inhalation of dust, particles, or fibers of asbestos-containing materials can lead to a scarring of the lungs known as asbestosis , and it is the only known cause of the deadly and difficult to treat cancer mesothelioma. Asbestos exposure also leads to other forms of lung cancers. Corporate interests seemed to be ruling some nations that export chrysotile. These countries opposed including chrysotile on the UN watch list during the previous meeting of the Parties to the Convention in 2006. These same pro-asbestos lobbyists are expected to again raise objection to the proposed inclusion of chrysotile when the group meets in late October 2008.