A United Nations Environment Programme committee of government-appointed experts has concluded that three widely used pesticides and all forms of asbestos should be added to an international list of chemicals subject to trade controls.
The recommendation to add five remaining forms of asbestos to the Prior Informed Consent procedure list (one is already listed) launches a process that will conclude in 2003. The committee's review of asbestos was triggered by bans in Australia, Chile and the EU.
"This decision of the committee is another big step towards eliminating the risks associated with asbestos and its products. Even in countries like mine, where these products have been banned for a long time, they remain a major problem when decontaminating buildings and paying the huge costs of treating people with serious diseases caused by asbestos," said Interim Chemical Review Committee Chairman Reiner Arndt of Germany.
Under the Rotterdam convention, a review is initiated when two countries in two different regions ban or severely restrict a chemical. The convention gives importing countries the tools and information they need to identify potentially hazardous chemicals and to exclude those they cannot manage safely. When trade is permitted, requirements for information and labeling about potential health and environmental effects promote the safe use of the chemicals.
Once widely used as insulation for houses and specialized equipment, asbestos was eliminated in many countries when regulatory agencies realized that its tiny fibers were being inhaled into the lungs of workers and residents and causing cancer and other potentially deadly illnesses. Asbestos is still used for seals, gaskets, joints, brakes, weapons and other applications, although cost-effective substitutes are increasingly available for most applications.
edited by Sandy Smith ([email protected])