Background: basic facts

Asbestosis. Try Wikipedia
Asbestos as carcinogen.  US NIH NIEH Report on Carcinogens (2011) Asbestos CAS1332-21-4 (here)
Controversy over the differential toxicity of different forms of asbestos.  

Global regulatory structures


  • Workers' health: Global plan of action here
  • WHO Topic page: Asbestos-related disease here
  • Publication: Elimination of asbestos-related disease here

IARC (International Agency for Research on Cancer, an agency of WHO)

Undertakes and sponsors research on cancer.  Advises WHO on related matters.


Co-sponsor of WHO's Global Plan of Action on Workers' Health here
More to come

Rotterdam Convention (UN, UNDP, UNEP)

About Annex III.  If chrysotile asbestos were listed on Annex III it would require governments of countries importing asbestos to give PIC (prior informed consent).
See debate at the 6th Conference of the Parties in 2013 where the WHO representative advised that: "

“…owing to the widespread use of chrysotile in building materials and other asbestos products it was not possible to prevent the exposure of workers and the general public. Furthermore, the chemical could not be used safely owing to the way in which products containing it were produced and handled and degraded in situ, as well as the challenges that they presented in decommissioning and subsequent waste management. She added that WHO and IARC had conducted an evaluation of fibrous chrysotile asbestos substitutes and had concluded that safer alternatives were available”.

Nonetheless the chrysotile exporters were able to prevent listing of chrysotile yet again.

International Ban Asbestos Secretariat


Current hot topics

Inclusion of chrysotile on Annex III of the Rotterdam Convention

Subject to conflict since 2004 (see) at the Conferences of the Parties to the Convention.
Most recently in April 2013. Again deferred (see). 

Kerfuffle in Feb 2013. Lancet attack on IARC for attending a conference in Kiev organised in close consultation with the Russian asbestos industry.  Criticism from Italian MOH.  Also from the IBAS.

See WHO response.  See IARC response.

IARC sponsored study of relative 'safety' of chrysotile. Criticism from Lemen et al.

Canada plays a devious game (here)! 

Fisticuffs at WHA66 over asbestos.  See Item 18 of the Agenda (Document A66/27). See debate at 6th7th sessions of Committee B. Italy raises asbestos. Russia and then Kazakhstan explain that chrysotile asbestos is quite safe. Australia disagrees. Supported by ADG Fukuda.  Mr Fedotov of ILO sitting on the fence.  See.

AsbestosDebateWHA66(1305).pdf50.85 KB