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Global Organization Frustrated in Attempt to Restrict Asbestos Sales

Despite widespread acknowledgement of the many health dangers posed by exposure to asbestos, the members of the Rotterdam Convention failed again to place tough trade restrictions on the export of chrysotile asbestos. Though the vast majority of member countries are in favor of including the carcinogen on the Rotterdam Convention Hazardous Substances list, there remain seven countries that rely on the sale of the material, and which refuse to provide their approval of such a move.

Asbestos is the single proven cause of malignant mesothelioma, a rare and deadly form of cancer that is responsible for approximately 3,000 deaths in the United States each year. It is also the cause of a number of other serious illnesses including asbestosis and asbestos-related lung cancer. In total there are an additional 10,000 Americans who are said to die each year as a result of these other asbestos-related diseases and more than 100,000 around the world. Yet despite this known danger, the countries of Russia, Kazakhstan, Zimbabwe, India, Kyrgyzstan, Belarus and Syria are all standing in the way of restricting its import.

Inclusion on the Rotterdam Convention Hazardous Substances list does not actually restrict the sale of asbestos. Instead, it requires that countries that are export the material provide more complete information about its dangers to those that are importing it. Many of the world’s countries have outlawed the use of the material entirely as a result of its hazards, but others, including Brazil and China, continue to use it. The same is true of many of the Asian countries, whose continued use is sparking fear of a continued rise in the incidence of asbestos-related diseases.

Under the rules of the Rotterdam Convention, in order for a material to be included on the Hazardous Substances list there must be a unanimous vote in support of its inclusion. The seven countries that refuse to sign on to have asbestos added are increasingly isolated in their stance: in the last few years Pakistan, Cuba, Canada, Vietnam and the Ukraine have all shifted their position.

Speaking of the continued concern about the use of asbestos and the dangers that it poses, Dr. Arthur L. Frank of Drexel University said, “Asbestos-related diseases cause great human suffering. Death from difficult to treat cancers and suffocation caused by asbestosis are terrible ways to die. The callous disregard of some countries for educating workers condemns many to unnecessary and painful deaths.”

Mesothelioma sufferers know all too well the dangers posed by exposure to asbestos. If you or someone you love needs assistance with any medical, financial or legal issues related to an asbestos-related illness, contact the Patient Advocates at Mesothelioma.net today. We can be reached at  1-800-692-8608.


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