Conflict at the Rotterdam Convention: Handful of Asbestos and Endosulfan Producing States Denying the Right to Information for Other Countries

    ROME, Italy, Oct. 29 /CNW Telbec/ - At the 4th meeting of the Conference
of the Parties (COP 4) of the Rotterdam Convention this week, about five
countries are trying to dictate their will over some 120 other countries who
are parties to the Convention. They aim to obstruct a popular consensus
requiring control over international trade of chrysotile asbestos and
endosulfan, derailing the full intention of the convention.
    The Convention helps countries protect their borders and health of their
people, through an international, legally-binding requirement for information
exchange about import or export of hazardous chemicals. It is not about
banning substances: it is about obligatory consent before import or export of
    "It is the highest form of hypocrisy for Canada to work behind the scenes
with a handful of countries to prevent citizens of the majority of Rotterdam
Convention members to be informed about the hazards of chrysotile asbestos,
when we virtually no longer use it in Canada because it is so extremely
hazardous", says Kathleen Ruff coordinator of the Rotterdam Convention
Alliance (ROCA). "Canada spends millions of dollars promoting the sale of
chrysotile asbestos in poor countries, however if it were the other way
around, Canada would not accept it. Even now the Canadian government wishes to
strictly control the import of hazardous chemicals into Canada."
    "The Convention's chemical scientific committee, in which scientists of
all over the world participated, came to a consensus agreement to recommend
having chrysotile asbestos and the pesticide endosulfan listed on the Prior
Informed Consent Procedure for Certain Hazardous Chemicals and Pesticides in
International Trade (PIC list) of the Rotterdam Convention. This chemical
scientific committee has, over the last years, studied all available evidence
before coming to its conclusion. All countries, including those opposing the
decision, contributed," says Dr. Barry Castleman, Member of the Collegium
    Dr. Castleman notes that, "Chrysotile asbestos is a widely used building
material in many developing and transition countries. 70 years of scientific
evidence shows a direct link between exposure to asbestos dust and cancer. The
WHO states that every year more than 100,000 people die from chrysotile
asbestos. As the asbestos related cancers normally take 20 or 30 years to
develop in a person, the current high use of asbestos in developing countries
will lead to hundred of thousands of deaths in a few decades."
    Despite the years of credible work by the international scientific
community and the rigorous work of all United Nations agencies, India and
Ukraine are distributing brochures at the Rotterdam Convention, entitled
"Chrysotile Asbestos Saves Lives". According to Dr. Soskolne of the University
of Alberta, "the data presented would never make it into a serious scientific
journal, the methodologies are not transparent, and a lot of the information
is false."
    "This means that most developing countries currently have no information
about hazardous chemicals entering their countries," says Alexandra Caterbow,
Chemical Coordinator of the NGO Women in Europe for a Common Future (WECF).
"Because of this handful of countries, including Canada, India and Ukraine, a
lot of people will die, as there has been no information about the dangers of
the chemicals they used."
    Madhumita Dutta, of the NGO Corporate Accountability Desk in India says
"Millions of workers in India are getting exposed to asbestos everyday. India
is not only failing to protect its own people but is obstructing other
countries their right to protect their people."
    Remy Jonas Ahoyo, president of the NGO GAPROFFA, Benin, says "the
pesticide endosulfan, kills 2 cotton producers each month in Benin during
application period. It increases poverty, causes birth defects and
reproductive harm, and degrades the environment. Benin has just taken the step
to ban endosulfan, but, many other African countries have not, and they should
at least be able to use the Rotterdam Convention to be informed about imports
from India, China and the European Union (Germany)."
    "The convention should not be compromised by countries which have a
conflict of interest, such as the case of India; the Indian government owns a
big factory of Endulsofan," says Karl Tupper, of Pesticide Action Network
North America.

For further information:

For further information: ROCA: Kateleen Ruff, Canada;
CAD: Madhumita Dutta, India, mobile: +91 9444390240,;
GAPROFFA: Remy Jonas Ahoyo, Benin, Mobile: +229-21321314,;
WECF: Sascha Gabizon, Netherlands, Mobile +49-172-8637586,; PAN: Eloise Touni, UK,;
Eco-Accord: Olga Speranskaya, Russia,; IPEN: Mariann
Lloyd-Smith, Australia, Mobile: 0413621557,; Rideau
Institute: Anthony Salloum, (613) 565-9449 (o), (613) 724-1070 (cell),

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