Alliance news

Workers From Around the World Support Safe Use of Chrysotile and Object the Inclusion in Annex 3 of Rotterdam Convention

Geneva, June 22, 2011 — The International Trade Union Movement for Chrysotile, representing hundreds of thousands of workers from the mines, mills and factories that produce chrysotile products, as well as the workers from the companies that support this activity, voice their strong opposition to the inclusion of chrysotile in Annex III of the Rotterdam Convention. These workers are primarily from countries such as Brazil, Russia, India, China, Kasaksthan, Kirghistan, Canada, Mexico, Peru, Ecuador, Columbia, Bolivia.

Inclusion would translate into the necessity for exporting and importing countries to extensively document all specific shipments of chrysotile from one country to another This is not necessary, as chrysotile is a very well-known, naturally occurring substance, whose impact on human health has been extensively studied for decades. There are relatively few buyers and sellers. The companies that trade in chrysotile and the governments that regulate this trade in exporting and in importing countries know very well how to handle this substance safely. International transportation of chrysotile is already regulated by a stringent protocol and exporting companies are bound by agreements with their respective governments to export only to responsible users that can demonstrate they use it safely.

Workers in many countries fought long and hard to achieve safe and controlled use of chrysotile. They know how to use it in a safe manner and they intend to keep doing so.

The latest scientific evidence published, including numerous studies published in peer-reviewed scientific journals in the past decade alone, strongly supports the following views:
1. Chrysotile is significantly less hazardous than the amphibole forms of asbestos;
2. When properly controlled and used, chrysotile asbestos in its modern day high density applications does not present risks of any significance to public or worker health.

Unnecessary administrative complications become trade barriers. The strongest proponents of inclusion of chrysotile in Annex III are avowed advocates of a complete ban on chrysotile. Most substances included in Annex III are eventually completely banned.

«The people of many countries would pay the biggest price » said Andrey Kholzakov, chairman of International Trade Union Movement for Chrysotile — ITUM. Not only would they loose the jobs involved in the mining, trade and manufacturing of chrysotile and chrysotile-bearing products, but the population would suffer because chrysotile products answer many of their essential needs such as sanitary infrastructures or housing. »

Today a number of organizations are trying to confuse the world’s public opinion, stating that consensus has been achieved on the question of banning chrysotile asbestos. Our Trade Union Movement rejects such an approach. There is no consensus either in political, scientific or trade union circles. And despite the pressure on behalf of the European Union and organizations representing anti-asbestos lobby at COP V Meeting to include chrysotile in Annex 3 of Rotterdam Convention, our International Trade Union Movement declares this to be unjust and discriminating for hundreds of thousands workers around the world. We stand for the controlled use of chrysotile in accordance with ILO Convention No.162, and non-inclusion chrysotile into Annex 3 of the Rotterdam Convention.