Asbestos lawyer Harminder Bains has expressed her deep disappointment in the failure by world nations to add chrysotile, or white asbestos, to a list of dangerous substances that would have prevented the export of the product without the consent of the importing country.

Following the 13th meeting of the Conference of the Parties to the Basel Convention (BC COP-13), the eighth meeting of the Conference of the Parties to the Rotterdam Convention (RC COP-8) and the eighth meeting of the Conference of the Parties to the Stockholm Convention (SC COP-8) the secretariat confirmed that the deadly substance would not be added to the list. The Rotterdam Convention regulates world trade in hazardous substances.

Opposition to the tougher trade restrictions came from countries that export chrysotile asbestos, including Russia, India, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Zimbabwe, Belarus, and Syria.

All members of the EU have banned all forms of asbestos but repeated attempts to list the white asbestos through the Rotterdam convention have all failed despite all six types of known asbestos being carcinogenic.

Chrysotile asbestos is widely recognised as being a cause of asbestosis, lung cancer and mesothelioma. It is a hazardous and life-threatening substance but many countries that export asbestos insist that its use is safe.

The World Health Organisation says that asbestos kills more than 100,000 people every year, and that 125 million people in the world are exposed to asbestos in the workplace. The most recent figures for the UK show that 2515 people died from mesothelioma in 2014.

Leigh Day mesothelioma lawyer Harminder Bains said:

“Workers who are exposed to asbestos in the workplace will despair at this latest failure by world nations to list chrysotile asbestos as a hazardous substance.

“Chrysotile asbestos is predominantly used in asbestos cement building materials which are used in developing countries and which expose people who come into contact with the material to the risk of developing life-threatening cancers.

“I can only hope that attempts to list while asbestos on the Rotterdam Convention list will one day be successful, thereby protecting millions of workers around the world from this pernicious substance.”