02:13 pm, Wednesday 8 May, 2013
Photo: SafetyCulture Library
Controlling the export of chrysotile asbestos is necessary to limit the death toll from the deadly substance in developing countries, a union said on Monday.
ACTU President Ged Kearney said that the Rotterdam Convention in Geneva, Switzerland must include chrysotile asbestos in its list of hazardous substances which are being monitored for export.
“Asbestos has been banned in construction in Australia since 1987, but is still used as a cheap material in developing nations in our region,” said Ms Kearney.
“This means that workers in these countries are being exposed to dangerous fibres which will cause a huge death toll for decades to come.
“Australia must use its influence in the region to limit the use of asbestos and develop substitutes that will not leave generations of people at risk of an early death.
Ms Kearney said we must learn from our own experience of the “horrific toll of asbestos”.
“The deadly substance was part of the fabric of this nation. About every third domestic dwelling built between 1945 and 1987 is thought to contain asbestos. Thousands of Australians were exposed to asbestos, and deaths from asbestos-related disease are still to peak.
“We call on every country attending the 6th Conference of the Parties to the Rotterdam Convention to support putting chrysolite asbestos on the Convention’s list of hazardous substances.”
“The Convention’s expert scientific body (the Chemical Review Committee) is recommending this for the fourth time and they must be listened to.
“Chrysotile asbestos is the only asbestos that is still traded today. There is an overwhelming scientific consensus that all forms of asbestos, including chrysotile, are hazardous to health, and can cause deaths years after exposure.
She said that other countries should stop using asbestos and that the asbestos industry is exporting a deadly product while continuing to deny its hazards.
“The Rotterdam Convention requires all nations who export hazardous substances to obtain prior informed consent, thus enabling countries to protect the health of their citizens.
“Listing chrysotile asbestos is an important step to better regulating this deadly substance.”
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