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Milestone achievement: Asbestos banned in Ukraine

Ukraine's Ministry of Health banned asbestos in Ukraine. WECF's and other civil society organisations' work paid off!

01.09.2017 |

Asbestos testing as part of a WECF workshop

The use of asbestos is a topic dear to WECF. A great achievement has been achieved however, as Ukraine’s Ministry of Health has banned the use of all types of asbestos."It is prohibited to manufacture and use asbestos regardless of its type, and asbestos-containing products and materials in technological processes and during construction works, …" the regulation reads. The ban in Ukraine takes place 5 years after WECF co-organized the first International Expert Conference on Asbestos in Kiev with longtime partner MAMA-86, where for the first time an open debate was held to discuss the issue of chrysotile asbestos in Ukraine.

The ban was subject to heavy lobbying against it. Within Ukraine, the ban is opposed by Ukrainian companies working with asbestos (employing 4000 people), while Ukraine’s neighboring countries, Kazakhstan and Russia, produce about 65% of global asbestos, and can expect to see their exports decline due to the ban. Over the period of 2009-2015, Ukraine imported an average of 42,200 tons of asbestos a year.

Image: there are 55 countries in the world with full or partial bans on the use of asbestos. Ukraine can now be added to this map.

Being banned from use in the E.U. since 2005, asbestos use is still allowed in many countries that WECF is active in, in the former Soviet Union, and in many other countries in the world. It might be noteworthy to mention that the USA is one of these countries. The most-used type of asbestos is chrysotile asbestos, which is also one of the most dangerous forms. Science has unanimously demonstrated that chrysotile asbestos has carcinogenic properties. Diseases caused by asbestos include asbestosis, mesothelioma and lung cancer, which the WHO estimates to lead to about 100,000 deaths a year. Asbestos is particularly dangerous for construction and mining workers, who can come in direct contact with it. It is thought to be responsible for half of the deaths from cancer developed at work. The most efficient way to reduce illnesses resulting from asbestos exposure is by banning its use and ultimately presence, although past use can still lead to dangerous situations.

WECF has historically been committed to banning the use of hazardous chemicals. WECF’s long-time partner, MAMA-86, founded after the Chernobyl nuclear disaster, has actively campaigned against environmental pollution in Ukraine, focusing especially on pollution by chemicals. Work of WECF regarding asbestos includes giving trainings on the ground to provide information about chrysotile asbestos, its mining and treatment, the use in building and machinery construction to local NGO’s and others in Kazakhstan, Macedonia and Russia, but also high level lobbying to phase out the use of asbestos. WECF is a member of ROCA (Rotterdam Convention Alliance), to promote full and effective implementation of the Rotterdam Convention.

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