Posted by Andrew Bone Wednesday, 12th October 2016
Yes, Australia has a poor record in many respects with regards environment and public health. Asbestos is a good example. Even though it has been known since the 1930s, and scientifically proven since the 1960s, that asbestos fibres in the air will cause long-term health problems, industry has been able to cajole politicians not to act to regulate the use of asbestos. They were just making too much money.
The price, as usual, is not paid by the profiteers, but by the common person. Australia has a 'built-in', literally, long-term health hazard, and to a greater degree than most western countries. This is an extract of the statement the Australian delegation made to the 2015 CoP (Conference of Parties) to the Rotterdam Convention (which seeks to restrict the export of hazardous substances).
"We support PIC [Prior Informed Consent]. The CRC [Conference to the Rotterdam Convention] had made a decision – we hear the same arguments. We come to a crossroad, we need PIC for chemicals that are still traded. Australia's interest comes from our own experiences. We used 500,000t of chrysotile, we continued importing, however the damage is fatal. We expect a further 25,000 deaths during the next 30 years. We paid a high price. We will continue to pay billions more of dollars. If we fail to reach agreement in this CoP, what is the meaning for the future?"
And, indeed, they did fail to reach agreement at the CoP to include chrysotile asbestos in Annex III (the list of substances which are subject to export/import control through a mechanism of obligation to inform) of the Rotterdam Convention. Thanks to unscrupulous countries like Canada (who blocked aggressively any attempt to include asbestos till 2012) and Russia (who vetoed the inclusion in 2015), asbestos continues to be mined and exported in large quantities, primarily to developing countries. While the number of deaths from asbestosis and mesothelioma is still rising all over the world, industry continues to deny and manipulate public understanding.
For more information on this topic: http://umwelt.science/News_Asbestos_the_killer