UN Body Fails to Add Chrysotile to Hazardous Material Watch List

For the second time in as many years, pro-industry lobbyists from several nations prevented the addition of chrysotile asbestos to the Prior Informed Consent list, once known as the Hazardous Materials Watch List. Although Canada, whose exports of chrysotile in 2007 were worth over $77 million, did not address the Rotterdam Convention, representatives from India, Pakistan, Vietnam, and the Philippines did. These nations are some of the markets that accept asbestos products for import, and some feel that delegates from these nations acted as the mouthpieces for Canada to prevent chrysotile from being added to the list. While other nations wanted to prevent the chrysotile form of asbestos from being added to the list, the majority of delegates favored adding it; however, a vote to only require three-fourths of the nations to approve adding chrysotile was vetoed by Canada.

The requirement of a unanimous vote remained, and the handful of nations to oppose adding the material prevented the measure from passing. Asbestos exposure has been linked to long-term health effects, including mesothelioma , lung cancer and a scarring of the lungs known as asbestosis . These conditions often do not develop until many years after exposure, leading many to underestimate the damage done by asbestos. Adding the material to the list would require both importing and exporting nations to acknowledge that they are trading a hazardous material and must give prior consent. Inclusion on the list does not ban or restrict trading chrysotile. Since a consensus was not reached, the measure to add chrysotile will be put off until the next convention in 2011.