At this week’s UN Rotterdam Convention, lobbyists from both Russia and Zimbabwe will be attending for the first time, intent on keeping chrysotile asbestos off the convention’s list of hazardous substances. Prior to this year, Canada – which had a huge interest in the chrysotile industry – played that role.
An article in the Toronto Newspaper The Star reports that now that Canada is no longer the chief party in the cover-up about the truth surrounding the toxicity of chrysotile – or white – asbestos, it is necessary for the countries that still do the majority of the exporting of the material to step forward and make their opinion known.
Russia exports some 750,000 tons of the 1 million total tons exported each year, show estimates from 2011. This is their inaugural visit to the convention and they’ve already made it known that their goal is to prevent the inclusion of chrysotile on the list, which already includes dozens of toxic substances and materials. Zimbabwe, a country which hopes to soon re-open its asbestos mines, will join them in the campaign. Neither country, it seems, is concerned about health and safety.
Canada’s government recently announced that since it no longer has an interest in the asbestos industry, it will not continue to block the inclusion of the material on the list. Quebec lieutenant, Christian Paradis — long a staunch ally of the Quebec asbestos industry – says there’s really no point to it anymore.
“Canada’s message to the world is clear and sordid,” says the article’s author, Kathleen Ruff. “If you can make money from exporting a hazardous substance, then oppose safety requirements, as they might damage profits. If you have no vested interest, then don’t bother to oppose.”
“If other countries follow Canada’s example, the convention becomes worthless,” Ruff points out. “Canada does not even intend to support the listing of chrysotile asbestos. Instead, it will maintain a cowardly, ambiguous silence.”
Chrysotile asbestos, once used in thousands of products, has been proven to cause mesothelioma and other related diseases, even though Canada and other countries have long defended their exports of the material to Second- and Third-World countries, saying that there’s no proof that white asbestos causes respiratory illnesses. Ironically, Canada does not allow the use of asbestos in its own country.