Global Movement to Ban Asbestos Needs a Push

The Rotterdam Convention on the Prior Informed Consent Procedure for Certain Hazardous Chemicals and Pesticides in International Trade is a 141 member treaty that works to share information about hazardous chemicals among nations involved in international trade and promotes safe and responsible use of those chemicals. Many health and safety advocates, as well as those who suffer from mesothelioma, were disappointed to learn that the Chemical Review Committee of the Rotterdam Convention failed to include asbestos on the list of chemicals it added to Annex III of the Convention at its June 2011 meeting in Geneva. Asbestos is a chemical long linked to causing mesothelioma and there have been global and national efforts to ban the use of it.

Asbestos and Mesothelioma

Researchers have linked exposure to asbestos to the development of mesothelioma. According to recent estimates by the World Health Organization, over 125 million people are exposed to asbestos in the workplace each day. Over 107,000 people die each year from mesothelioma and other asbestos-exposure diseases. The U.S. alone sees approximately 2,500 new cases of mesothelioma each year.

Mesothelioma is a particularly deadly form of cancer that infects the thin tissue layer called the mesothelium that lines most of the internal organs. It often takes years for a patient to show symptoms and by the time a person receives a diagnosis, he or she is usually in stage three or four of the cancer and it is too late to cure it. As such, most treatment for mesothelioma focuses on making patients comfortable at the end of their lives, not curing the disease.

Efforts to Limit the Use of Asbestos

The Chemical Review Committee was considering adding asbestos to Annex III of the Convention, but unfortunately elected not to. If it had been added, those countries who export or import chemicals on the Annex III list would be obligated under the terms of the Convention to provide information regarding the safety concerns associated with asbestos to countries that might import asbestos so that the countries can make informed decisions about whether to keep using asbestos.

Canada and the Ukraine, along with other countries, objected to the inclusion of asbestos on the list of Annex III chemicals, however, as those countries are major exporters of asbestos. Many developing nations are still willing to import asbestos as a cheap building material.

In 1989, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) acknowledged the danger of asbestos and tried to ban most products with asbestos in the U.S. While the EPA's rule did not survive judicial scrutiny, the EPA heavily regulates the use of asbestos. In the U.S., flooring felt, rollboard, and corrugated, commercial and specialty paper cannot contain asbestos, nor can products that have not traditionally contained asbestos.

Since asbestos is only known cause of mesothelioma, there is no reason for people to suffer from this deadly disease. Simply eliminating the use of asbestos will prevent more people from developing this cancer. However, those who benefit financially from asbestos often resist efforts to ban the chemical - despite the known dangers. If you or someone you love is suffering from mesothelioma as a result of asbestos exposure, contact an attorney experienced in handling mesothelioma claims who can discuss your situation with you and advise you of your options.