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27 October 2008

An appeal to delegates to the 4th conference of the parties to the Rotterdam convention re: chrysotile asbestos, endosulfan and tributyl tin

The Collegium Ramazzini, an international academic society dedicated to the understanding and prevention of occupational and environmental disease, independent of all commercial interests, calls upon the delegates to the Fourth Conference of the Parties to the Rotterdam Convention to sustain the Convention’s core principle of Prior Informed Consent and in that spirit to uphold the recommendation of the Chemical Review Committee to list chrysotile asbestos, endosulfan and tributyl tin compounds in Annex III of the Convention.

The Rotterdam Convention. The Rotterdam Convention is an international treaty, enacted in 2004 and currently ratified by 124 nations. It is intended promote environmental justice by regulating global trade in certain, selected pesticides and other dangerous chemicals – pesticides and chemicals that have been banned or severely restricted in certain countries because of their hazards to human health or the environment. The goal is to protect the world’s most vulnerable countries - developing countries and countries with economies in transition - against importation without their prior knowledge or consent of hazardous pesticides and other regulated chemicals.

Prior Informed Consent (PIC) is the core principle of the Rotterdam Convention. This legally binding procedure requires that governments in all countries be provided full information prior to importation about the risks to health and the environment of each of the hazardous materials regulated by the Convention. Annex III of the Rotterdam Convention contains a list of the pesticides and chemicals – 39 in number – currently regulated by the Convention.

The Chemical Review Committee, established in Article 18 of the Convention, has responsibility for evaluating chemicals and recommending them for inclusion in Annex III. The Chemical Review Committee has recommended that chrysotile asbestos, endosulfan and tributyl tin compounds be listed in Annex III. This recommendation is based on widely accepted, peer reviewed scientific evidence that each of these chemicals presents serious hazards to human health and the environment.

Chrysotile Asbestos. Asbestos is an occupational and environmental hazard of catastrophic proportion. Asbestos is responsible for over 100,000 deaths per year worldwide. It is expected to cause more than 250,000 deaths in the next 25 years in Western Europe. It will cause millions more deaths worldwide, principally in developing countries. The profound tragedy of the asbestos epidemic is that all illnesses and deaths caused by asbestos are entirely preventable. Safer substitutes for asbestos exist. More than 40 countries have successfully banned asbestos.

All forms of asbestos can cause asbestosis, a progressive, fibrotic disease of the lungs. All forms of asbestos can cause lung cancer. All can cause malignant mesothelioma. Asbestos has been declared a proven human carcinogen by numerous national regulatory bodies, by the International Program on Chemical Safety and by the International Agency for Research on Cancer of the World Health Organization.

Chrysotile asbestos represents 95% of all asbestos ever used. It is the only form of asbestos in international trade today. Claims that chrysotile asbestos might be significantly less dangerous than other forms of asbestos have proven false. The preponderance of scientific evidence demonstrates that chrysotile asbestos causes cancer, including lung cancer and malignant mesothelioma.
Chrysotile asbestos is practically no longer used in the industrialized world. It is shipped to developing countries.

The Collegium Ramazzini, the International Commission on Occupational Health, the International Labour Organization, and the World Health Organization have all called for a global ban on mining and use of chrysotile asbestos.

Endosulfan. Endosulfan is an environmentally persistent, bioaccumulative, highly acutely toxic organochlorine pesticide. It demonstrates toxic effects closely similar to those of five other organochlorine pesticides already listed in Annex III – aldrin, chlordane, dieldrin, heptachlor and toxaphene. Endosulfan is an endocrine disruptor, causing reproductive and developmental damage in both animals and humans, and it is toxic to the nervous system.

Endosulfan is banned in more than 100 countries. Pesticide manufacturers have voluntarily recalled endosulfan from markets in many developed countries but continue to export and sell endosulfan to developing nations.

Tributyl Tin Compounds. Tributyl tin (TBT) compounds are toxic, environmentally persistent, bioaccumulative pesticides widely used as fungicides and wood preservatives. TBT compounds are extremely toxic to marine life and are endocrine-disruptors that cause severe reproductive effects in aquatic organisms.

The European Community and countries outside Europe have banned the use of TBT compounds. The International Programme on Chemical Safety has recommended that all member countries regulate the use of TBT compounds. The International Convention on the Control of Harmful Antifouling Systems for Ships obliges its signatories to ensure that no vessels using TBT-containing paint go under their flag or call at their ports. All countries party to the International Maritime Organization must abide by this Convention.

Conclusion. The recommendation of the Chemical Review Committee to list chrysotile asbestos, endosulfan and tributyl tin compounds under Annex III of the Convention is based on abundant scientific and medical evidence. It reflects global scientific consensus. The scientific review process under the Convention has been completed.

Recommendation. The Collegium Ramazzini calls upon all Delegates to the Conference of the Parties to respect the abundant scientific and medical evidence that has been evaluated by the Chemical Review Committee, to uphold the principle of Prior Informed Consent, and to list chrysotile asbestos, endosulfan and tributyl tin compounds in Annex III of the Rotterdam Convention.




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