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Women make a difference - even on a so-called men’s issue

Side Event “Dangers in the Dust”

22.06.2011 |Chantal van den Bossche




ROCA (Rotterdam Convention Alliance) organized at the COP 5 in Geneva on June 21st, 2011 a side event centered around a BBC documentary with the same name.

Chrysotile asbestos is still mined and used in a number of countries, and many problems such as the lack of proper waste disposal and lack of information about health risks still persist. Although over 50 nations have banned chrysotile asbestos, the number of people suffering from asbestos related diseases is still expected to increase in the coming decade due to the long latency period of these diseases. Moreover the economic costs for clean up and health care are astronomical and will continue to rise.

More than 80 participants were present at the side event organised by the Rotterdam Convention Alliance. Moderator Alexandra Caterbow, WECF and ROCA Co-Coordinator member, opened the event by pointing out that listing asbestos on Annex III of Rotterdam Convention must be a goal of everybody who feels responsible for human beings health. Therefore this side event again would focus on the health risk of mining and using asbestos.

The presenters were ROCA representatives Madhu Dutta, Corporate Accountability Desk of the Other Media, India, Zuleica Nycz, Brasilian Asbestos Victims Association, Brasil and Vladimir Korotenko, BIOM, Kyrgyzstan.

With showing the BBC documentary “Dangers in the Dust” the side event strengthened the fact that asbestos is indeed related with many health risks like lung cancer, mesothelioma, etc. The documentary illustrates clearly that economic interests are stronger than the protection of human health by pointing out the irrational policy of Canada, on the one hand restricting the use of asbestos in the country itself but on the other hand enlarging the export to other countries. Regarding the negocitaions on COP 5 it is ironic that Canadas politics is blocking the process in the whole world for listing asbestos.



This view on asbestos was supported by the presentations from civil society representatives from India, Brasil and Kyrgyzstan.

Madhu Dutta from Chennai who is an environmental scientist by profession, has been an anti toxics and asbestos campaigner for more than ten years. “There is a lot at stake for India. We import more asbestos than we mine ourselves, but we have to deal with the aggressiveness of the industry. The Indian mines only provide for a small quantity of the asbestos, 90 procent is imported from Russia, Brazil and Canada.”

Zuleica Nycc, a representive of Brasilian Asbestos Victims Association shared the same experiences in Brazil: Mines are owned by very powerful people and asbestos is under general licence. It has a clear conomic visibility while at the same time asbestos is so cheap, that it's the ultimate poor men’s construction material.

Vladimir Korotenko from BIOM, Kyrgyzstan, experienced the asbestos tragedy from another perspective. In Kyrgyzstan, a big importer of Russian asbestos, there is no known threshold for safety. No independent and comprehensive information is available, lack of epidemiological studies on the workers exposed to asbestos available.

His recommendations were to develop a national program for diagnosis to reduce and ileminate, undertake identification, ensure asbestor related disease are aacounted for in medical statistics.

ROCA Co-coordinatorAlexandra Caterbow closed the sideevent with expressing the hope that COP 5 will be find consensus for listing asbestos.



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