International Alliance of Trade Union Organisations "Chrysotile": Chrysotile is safe under controlled use

The issue of a possible ban on the industrial use of chrysotile fibre was raised again during the 2022 Rotterdam Convention meeting of the Parties. For several decades, various anti-asbestos activists, organisations and national governments have been united against mountain flax. Their arguments are largely repetitive, without adding new convincing facts to support their position. Based on studies mixing two radically different minerals, amphibole and chrysotile asbestos, they argue that any form of asbestos should be completely banned.

At the same time, the International Alliance of Trade Union Organisations «Chrysotile» insists that chrysotile and amphibole asbestos are fundamentally different in their properties and the nature of their effects on humans. There are numerous scientific studies that convincingly prove the safety of chrysotile fibres when used in a controlled manner. This is proved by more than a century of experience in the use of chrysotile asbestos in Russian industry, on the basis of which extensive statistics have been compiled on the effects of the mineral on the human body. At the same time, amphibole asbestos is indeed dangerous to human life and the International Alliance of Trade Union Organisations «Chrysotile» supports its ban and removal from circulation.

In addition to the above, the International Alliance of Trade Union Organisations «Chrysotile» points out that chrysotile asbestos is an important part of the global economy. It is used in more than 300 types of industrial products: slate, façade boards, siding, pipes, brake pad linings, fire-resistant cardboard, thermal insulation materials, protective gear for hot-shop and firefighters, additives for roadway reinforcement and much more. Chrysotile fibre is valued for its unique properties — it does not catch fire, does not melt, does not emit harmful fumes when heated, does not conduct electricity, is stronger than many steel grades in tensile test and is resistant to mechanical damage. Chrysotile-based building materials are classed as «FR» (flame-resistant), i.e. they cannot catch fire at all temperatures. The mineral is mined in the Russian Federation, Kazakhstan, China and Brazil and is used in many countries around the world: the countries of Southeast Asia, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, India, the USA and others. Construction materials based on chrysotile asbestos make it possible to realise complex and sophisticated tasks. They are more affordable than their synthetic counterparts on the market, have a longer service life (cement slate serves more than 30 years, pipes — 20 years or more) and can be used in any climate zone from the Arctic to the tropics. Due to the reliability and availability of chrysotile cement materials, they are widely used in infrastructure projects that are the basis for economic development and improving the lives of millions of people.

The chrysotile industry brings together hundreds of thousands of people around the world. There are three chrysotile mining plants in the Russian Federation and Kazakhstan, each of which is a city-forming enterprise. Companies in the fibre processing industry provide jobs, pay taxes and, most importantly, produce quality products. Chrysotile cement slate is stored in warehouses of emergency services throughout the CIS and used in emergency response operations. The use of chrysotile cement products makes it possible to build affordable housing and long-lasting utility systems providing drinking water and sewage to the population.

Meanwhile, every year at the Rotterdam Convention meeting of the Parties, a number of states and activists oppose the industrial use of chrysotile asbestos. The Rotterdam Convention was adopted in 2004, with 72 signatories and 161 ratifications. Within the framework of the agreement, the parties regulate the circulation of chemicals with a view to protecting the environment and human health. However, in the case of chrysotile, there is no firm scientific basis for proving its harm. There are numerous studies confirming the safety of the mineral when used in a controlled manner. Nevertheless, the regular attacks on the chrysotile industry suggest motives other than «concern» for the public good. Manufacturers of synthetic chrysotile analogues have long dreamed of new markets in which they have to compete with a serious opponent.

In 2019, the chrysotile industry stood the test — opponents of asbestos were unable to provide convincing evidence. Officials from the delegations of the Russian Federation, Kazakhstan, Syria, Zimbabwe, Kyrgyzstan, Venezuela, Pakistan, Cuba, India and Iran came together to express a consolidated position: chrysotile asbestos, safe when used in a controlled manner, is an important part of the global economy.

Today, the International Alliance of Trade Union Organisations «Chrysotile» also intends to fight for the preservation of the chrysotile industry and social stability in the world, as in previous years. Thanks to the support of involved countries around the world, the final victory for chrysotile asbestos will be achieved!