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    Rotterdam Convention: No progress on democratic right to be protected from hazardous substances

    May 8, 2017 in ABAN, ActionAlerts, CampaignReports, Events, Latest News, Top News

    May 7, 2017: The 8th Conference of the Parties to the Rotterdam Convention (COP8) ended on May 5, 2017. It will be two years before the next conference takes place in 2019.

    Ever since the Convention came into beginning, the asbestos industry has refused to allow chrysotile asbestos to be put on the Convention’s list of hazardous substances, even though chrysotile asbestos meets all the criteria for listing. At COP 8, once again, a handful of countries, led by asbestos exporters, Russia and Kazakhstan, simply refused to allow the rights contained in the Convention to be implemented by refusing consensus.

    Frustrated by the asbestos industry’s endless sabotage of the Convention, a group of twelve African countries put forward an amendment to the Convention at COP8 that would allow a 3/4 majority vote to take the decision to list a hazardous substance, when consensus proves impossible. This amendment would end the ability of a small group of countries to sabotage the Convention in order to protect industry profits.

    Countries did not vote on the African amendment at COP8. Instead they officially noted “the different options for enhancing the effectiveness of the Rotterdam Convention, including improving the prior informed consent procedure (and) improving the listing process” and requested the Secretariat “to develop an online survey to gather information on priority actions to enhance the effectiveness of the Convention.” They established a working group with membership composed of representatives from Parties “to identify, on the basis of the report and comments received  a set of prioritized recommendations for enhancing the effectiveness of the Convention, and develop a report identifying further steps for consideration by the Conference of the Parties at its ninth meeting.”

    In other words, after a decade of sabotage of the Convention and failure to take action to address the sabotage, the Parties to the Convention will spend another two years discussing the problem and will “consider” the problem at the next conference in 2019.

    This endless failure to act sends a message that the double standard continues to rule in the world and that the lives of populations in the Global South are provided lesser rights to be protected from harm from hazardous substances than the rest of the world.

    In addition to chrysotile asbestos, the listing of carbosulfan, fenthion, and a paraquat formulation was blocked by a small number of countries.


    Source: https://www.rightoncanada.ca/?p=4030

    Prepared by: Kathleen Ruff, e-mail: kruff@bulkley.net

    Asbestos Industry Sabotages UN Rotterdam Convention

    May 4, 2017 in ABAN, Events, Latest News, Top News

    May 4, 2017: At the 8th Conference of the Parties to the Rotterdam Convention, taking place in Geneva this week, a tiny number of countries – Russia, Kazakhstan, Zimbabwe, India, Kyrgyzstan, Belarus and Syria – thumbed their noses at the scientific evidence and the wishes of the rest of the world and refused to allow chrysotile asbestos to be put on the Convention’s list of hazardous substances.

    The Rotterdam Convention requires countries to obtain Prior Informed Consent from any country to which they wish to export a hazardous substance on the Convention’s list. The Convention thus provides a basic democratic right that enables countries to  better protect their populations and environment.

    The Rotterdam Convention requires decisions to put a hazardous substance on its list to be made by consensus. For more than a decade, a handful of countries that profit from the asbestos trade, have denied consensus and thus sabotaged the Convention.

    Parties to the Convention agreed a decade ago that chrysotile asbestos met all the criteria for listing. The Convention’s expert scientific committee has for a decade called for chrysotile asbestos to be put on the Convention’s list. As the World Health Organization stated at the conference in Geneva this week, evidence that chrysotile asbestos is carcinogenic is “conclusive and overwhelming.”

    A dozen African countries have proposed amending the Convention to allow a decision to list a hazardous substance to be taken by a ¾ majority vote, if consensus proves impossible, as is allowed under the Basel and Stockholm Conventions, that also deal with hazardous substances.

    It is to be hoped that in the remaining two days of the conference, countries will approve the amendment. The Rotterdam Convention can be amended by a 3/4 majority vote.

    If the Convention is not amended, it will be seen as a failed Convention. For more than a decade, the Convention has protected the profits of the asbestos industry, instead of human and environmental health. If the Convention is not amended, this injustice will continue endlessly and the Convention will lose all credibility.

    Prepared by: Kathleen Ruff, e-mail: kruff@bulkley.net

    Asian Delegation at COP 8 – Media Event Updates

    May 3, 2017 in ABAN, ActionAlerts, Events, Latest News, Top News

    May 2, 2017: The Asian delegation at COP8 is made up of grassroots organisations from India – Occupational Health Environment Network of India (OHENI), Indonesia – Local Initiative on OSH (LION), Vietnam Ban Asbestos Network (VN BAN), Vietnam. The delegation is supported by – Asian Ban Asbestos Network (ABAN), Asia Monitor Resource Centre (AMRC), Union Aid Abroad APHEDA , Rotterdam Convention Alliance (ROCA), International Ban Asbestos Secretariat (IBAS) and Solidar Suisse.

    The delegation participated in a media event on the morning of May 2 at 9:30 am, held outside the conference venue organised by the Global Asbestos Action Alliance , which was followed by handing the petition of 7,000 signatories from around the world to the President of the COP Rotterdam Convention.

    Philip Hazelton from APHEDA introduced the media event and warned of a convention in crisis, as the veto by a small number of countries continues with listing chrysotile among other chemicals on the convention. He expressed the importance of the proposal put forward by 12 African countries to reform Article 22 of the Rotterdam Convention that is aimed at ‘democratising’ the decision-making process and the need for listing Asbestos under the Annex III of the Convention.

    Representatives from the global trade union movement spoke about the dangers of asbestos, a known carcinogen that has caused death and destruction in many countries and yet continues to be consumed in Asia and developing nations of Africa and Latin America. They highlighted the grave problems that persisted in the Rotterdam convention where a few countries are blocking the listing taking away the democratic right of user countries to know about the hazards the substance possess.   Andrew Dettmer from Australian Manufacturing Workers Union (AMWU) and IndustriALL , Fiona Murie from The Building and Wood workers International (BWI), Sari Saarinen from the Canadian Labour Congress (CLC) spoke to support the listing of asbestos under Annex III of the Convention.

    The media and those present at the press conference then listened to a powerful testimony from Siti Kristina a victim of asbestos related disease gave a testimony about exposure to asbestos while she worked at a factory in a asbestos textile factory in Indonesia. She worked in the factory for 23 years and then she fell sick. She has been diagnosed with asbestosis. Rajendra Pevekar who is a victim of secondary exposure of asbestos spoke next as his father worked as a sweeper at the asbestos factory. He came home and his clothes were full of asbestos dust and fibres therefore exposing members of his family to asbestos. Both Rajendra and his mother are now victims of asbestos related cancer.

    Jagdish Patel from OEHNI, expressed concern about the continued use of asbestos in India, which continues to be one of the largest importers of asbestos globally exposing millions to the risk of asbestos exposure. Absence of proper diagnosis does not reflect the true magnitude of the problem since majority of Asbestos Related Disease cases remain undiagnosed. He urged the Indian government to take the step in right direction by both listing the Asbestos on the Annex III and support the amendment of the Article 22.

    The ABAN network is led by the Victims (both occupational and environmental) and is comprised of trade unions, labour and other human rights organisations in more than 16 Asian countries. It recognizes Asia as a flashpoint for Asbestos Epidemic considering its continued use. ABAN aims towards complete elimination of Asbestos Related Diseases in Asia, and listing of asbestos in Annex III is a major step towards that.

    Prepared by: Omana George, Asia Monitor Resource Centre (AMRC)image4

    ANROEV Statement for International Workers’ Memorial Day 2017

    April 28, 2017 in ActionAlerts, Events, Latest News, Top News

    Let’s push the governments and relevant organizations for the collection of reliable OSH data for sustainable action

    International Workers’ Memorial Day takes place annually around the world on April 28 as a day of remembrance and action for workers killed, disabled, injured or made unwell by their work.

    According to the International Labour Organization (ILO), across the world:

    • Each year, more than two million men and women die as a result of work-related accidents and diseases
    • Workers suffer approximately 270 million accidents each year, and fall victim to some 160 million incidents of work-related illnesses
    • Hazardous substances kill 440,000 workers annually – asbestos claims 100,000 lives
    • One worker dies every 15 seconds worldwide. 6,000 workers die every day. More people die whilst at work than those fighting wars.

    However, the above-mentioned data are years old and not being updated on a regular basis due to challenges associated with occupational safety and health (OSH) data collection in many countries of the world particularly in the Asia and Pacific region.

    The ILO recognizes that the collection and utilization of reliable OSH data are indispensable for the detection of new hazards and emerging risks, the identification of hazardous sectors, the development of preventive measures, as well as the implementation of policies, systems and programmes at international, national and enterprise levels. OSH data provide the basis for setting priorities and measuring progress.

    Asian Network for the Rights of Occupational and Environmental Victims (ANROEV) and its partner organization Asia Monitor Resource Centre (AMRC) published a report in 2012 titled “Invisible Victims of Development – Workers Health and Safety in Asia” to highlight the severity of the problem on the ground in Asia with a detailed report from 6 Asian countries: China, India, Cambodia, Philippines, Thailand and Indonesia.

    The absence of figures also highlights the invisibility of impacted workers and their families and most of the time even denial about their existence by governments in the region.

    Yet they exist on the ground — impacted due to hazardous conditions at work and denied justice in terms of compensation, rehabilitation and dignity forming the most marginalized and exploited section of society.

    Under the United Nations 2030 Sustainable Development Agenda and multiple ILO OSH conventions, recommendations and protocols, countries have committed to the collection and utilization of reliable OSH data. However, following are many of the recognized challenges associated with OSH data collection, which are organized into the following four categories: A) Coverage; B) Accuracy; C) Comparability; and D) Timeliness.

    On the International Workers’ Memorial Day 2017 let’s continue to push the governments and relevant organizations for the collection of reliable OSH data so that workers health and safety in the world particularly in Asia can no longer be invisible, therefore, can be properly taken care of to uphold the four basic workers’ rights on OSH:

    1. The right to refuse to do dangerous work;
    2. The right education and training;
    3. The right to information; and
    4. The right to representation and participation.

    Chrysotile asbestos—a call for action on this hazardous substance

    April 28, 2017 in ABAN, ActionAlerts, Events, ImportantLinks, Latest News, Top News

    By Kathleen Ruff

    April 27, 2017: Chrysotile asbestos comprises 95% of all asbestos sold during the past century and for the past 30 years has represented the totality of the global asbestos trade.[1]

    The scientific consensus is clear that all forms of asbestos are harmful and should be banned.[2, 3, 4, 5] In light of clear evidence linking asbestos to lung cancer, mesothelioma, and asbestosis, the World Health Organization (WHO) has called for an end to any use of asbestos.[6, 7, 8]

    Studies linking inhalation of asbestos fibres to lung disease started to emerge as early as the 1930s. By the 1980s, as evidence of harms mounted, the asbestos industry faced extinction as its longtime customers in industrialized countries planned to ban or stop using asbestos. The industry created new markets in developing countries, claiming that chrysotile asbestos can be safely used,[9] and for the past 30 years, it’s been calculated that two million tons[10] of asbestos have been sold every year and placed in homes, schools, and buildings—mostly in Asia.

    The United Nations Rotterdam Convention regulates trade in hazardous substances. It requires exporting countries to obtain prior informed consent from any country to which they wish to ship a substance on the convention’s list of hazardous substances. Thus the convention empowers countries to protect their populations by refusing or setting conditions over the import of hazardous substances.

    Yet for over 10 years, a tiny number of countries have refused to allow chrysotile asbestos to be put on the convention’s list, even though the convention’s expert scientific body has repeatedly recommended its listing, stating that chrysotile asbestos meets the convention’s criteria for listing.[11]

    At the convention’s conference in Geneva this week and next week (from 24 April to 5 May), the recommendation to list chrysotile asbestos will once again be put forward. The convention will also consider a proposal by a dozen African countries to amend the convention to allow a 3/4 majority vote to list a hazardous substance if consensus proves impossible.[12]

    The Rotterdam Convention was specifically created to address the double standard whereby hazardous chemicals and pesticides that are banned or severely restricted in industrialized countries are increasingly being shipped to developing countries, where there are few resources to manage them safely. Thus, as populations in the global North gain greater protection from harm from hazardous substances, populations in the global South are increasingly exposed to such harm. The Rotterdam Convention seeks to stop this injustice by providing the modest but critical right of prior informed consent.

    In 2011, Canada, then a major asbestos exporter, supported by four other countries, refused to allow chrysotile asbestos to be listed as a hazardous substance.[13] Canada no longer exports asbestos and is now supporting and advocating for the listing of chrysotile asbestos at the Geneva conference. But other countries that export asbestos are continuing to block the listing of chrysotile asbestos.

    Russia and Kazakhstan currently represent 82% of all asbestos export. They, along with a handful of other countries, are seeking to keep chrysotile asbestos off the Rotterdam Convention’s list of hazardous substances, and to also defeat the proposed amendment that would allow decisions to be made by a 3/4 majority vote if consensus proves impossible.

    The Basel and Stockholm Conventions also regulate toxic substances and work conjointly with the Rotterdam Convention. Both the Basel and Stockholm Conventions allow a majority vote when consensus proves impossible. It makes sense and is clearly imperative that the Rotterdam Convention be amended to likewise enable a majority vote to list hazardous substances. If this is not done, then the ability of hazardous industries to block the right provided by the convention will continue endlessly. Countries have a right to control the import of hazardous substances, but a right that cannot be implemented is no right at all.

    The undermining of public health policy by the asbestos industry must be stopped. At the Rotterdam Convention conference, countries must ensure that chrysotile asbestos is listed as a hazardous substance, and if asbestos exporting countries refuse, then the convention must be amended to allow a majority vote decision.

    Kathleen Ruff is a senior human rights adviser at the Rideau Institute, Ottawa, Canada, and founder and co-coordinator of the Rotterdam Convention Alliance. She has worked intensively for the past nine years with scientists in Canada and around the world to stop the use of asbestos.

    Competing interests: I have read and understood BMJ’s policy on declaration of interests and declare I have no competing interests to declare.

    This blog was published in the British Medical Journal, April 27, 2017, http://blogs.bmj.com/bmj/2017/04/27/kathleen-ruff-chrysotile-asbestos-a-call-for-action-on-this-hazardous-substance/


    1. World Asbestos Production by Type, 1900 to 2012. US Geological Survey. Figure available at http://www.rightoncanada.ca/wp-content/uploads/2016/01/World-asbestos-production-by-type-1900-to-20121.jpg

    2. International Agency for Research on Cancer. Asbestos (chrysotile, amosite, crocidolite, tremolite, actinolite, and anthophyllite). 2012; Vol. 100c. http://monographs.iarc.fr/ENG/Monographs/vol100C/mono100C-11.pdf

    3. International Commission on Occupational Health. ICOH Statement on Global Asbestos Ban and the Elimination of Asbestos-related Diseases. 2013. http://www.icohweb.org/site/news-detail.asp?id=83

    4. Joint Policy Committee of the Societies of Epidemiology. Position Statement on Asbestos. 2012. https://www.ijpc-se.org/documents/03.JPC-SE-Position_Statement_on_Asbestos-June_4_2012-Full_Statement_and_Appendix_A.pdf

    5. World Federation of Public Health Associations. Global ban on the mining and use of asbestos. 2005. http://www.wfpha.org/tl_files/doc/resolutions/positionpapers/enrivonment/GlobalBanMining&Asbestos.pdf

    6. World Health Organization. Elimination of asbestos-related diseases. 2006. http://whqlibdoc.who.int/hq/2006/WHO_SDE_OEH_06.03_eng.pdf

    7. World Health Organization. Asbestos: elimination of asbestos-related diseases. Fact Sheet. Updated June 2016. http://www.who.int/mediacentre/factsheets/fs343/en/index.html

    8. World Health Organization. Chrysotile Asbestos. 2014. http://www.who.int/ipcs/assessment/public_health/chrysotile_asbestos_summary.pdf

    9.  Asbestos Fibre Types and Health Risks: Are Perceptions Related to Facts? Chrysotile Institute website. http://www.chrysotile.com/data/Orange_anglais_lr.pdf

    10. Virta, R. Asbestos Production, Trade, and Consumption in 2014. US Geological Survey. Worksheet for world asbestos consumption calculations available at http://www.rightoncanada.ca/wp-content/uploads/2016/01/World-asbestos-data-2014.pdf

    11. Chemical Review Committe. CRC 1 report: Chysotile asbestos, UNEP/FAO/RC/CRC 1/28.

    12. Intersessional work on the process of listing chemicals in Annex III to the Rotterdam Convention, UNEP/FAO/RC/COP.8/16/Add.1. http://www.pic.int/TheConvention/ConferenceoftheParties/Meetings/COP8/Overview/tabid/5311/language/en-US/Default.aspx

    13. In brief: White asbestos is kept off list of hazardous chemicals. BMJ2011;342:d4084. http://www.bmj.com/content/342/bmj.d4084

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