The ILO information document concerning chrysotile asbestos

The continuing use of asbestos is a cause of great concern. Its extensive use in the past has lead to a world epidemic of asbestos-related diseases today. According to an ILO estimate, 100,000 persons die every year from incurable asbestos-related diseases and many more will develop them in the future because of past exposure to Asbestos.

The ILO is using all its available means of action to prevent health risks posed by harmful exposures to asbestos through wide international co-operation and effective tripartite actions at national and enterprise levels aiming at the elimination of asbestos-related diseases. Among them, the promotion of the ratification and application of ILO’s Conventions on occupational cancer (No. 139), working environment (No. 148), safety in the use of asbestos (No.162), and safety in the use of chemicals at work (No.170) are specifically targeted. These four ILO international instruments have obtained a total of 119 ratifications by ILO member States. They provide a solid background for worker protection against exposure to asbestos by prescribing comprehensive preventive measures at national and enterprise levels. Other ILO means of action include sharing knowledge and experience, enhancing labour inspections, direct technical assistance to countries and technical co-operation. This task is being pursued in the context of the wider implementation of the ILO 2003 Global Strategy on Occupational Safety and Health and the recommendation of the 13th Session of the Joint ILO/WHO Committee on Occupational Health (December 2003) to eliminate silica- and asbestos-related diseases.

To pursue this goal of the elimination of asbestos-related diseases, the 95th session of the international Labour Conference (June 2006) adopted a Resolution calling for, inter alia, the elimination of the future use of asbestos and the identification and proper management of asbestos currently in place as the best means of preventing asbestos-related diseases and deaths. The Resolution also resolves that the ILO Convention Concerning Safety in the Use of Asbestos, 1986, (No. 162), should not be used to provide a justification for, or endorsement of, the continued use of asbestos. The text of the resolution is appended to this document.

It should be specifically mentioned that the ILO Convention Concerning Safety in the Use of Asbestos, 1986, (No.162), provides that “where necessary to protect the health of workers and technically practicable, national laws or regulations shall provide for one or more of the following measures- (a) replacement of asbestos or certain types of asbestos or products containing asbestos by other materials or products or the use of alternative technology, scientifically evaluated by the competent authorities as harmless or less harmful, whenever this is possible…” (Article 10 (a), emphasis added). The ILO Convention Concerning Safety in the Use of Chemicals at Work, 1990, (No.170), in the Part on Responsibility of Exporting States, indicates that “When in an exporting member State all or some uses of hazardous chemicals are prohibited for reasons of safety and health at work, this fact and the reasons for it shall be communicated by the exporting member State to any importing country” (Article 19).
Taking into account the foregoing, the ILO supports the recommendation to include chrysotile Asbestos on the list of substances listed in Annex III of the Rotterdam Convention.

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