Russia crushes a plan by the government of Thailand to ban asbestos

Fri, Mar 1, 2013


Kathleen Ruff,

Russia has, it seems, succeeded in crushing a plan by the government of Thailand to ban asbestos.

In April 2011, the Thai government approved a policy on “Measures to Make Thai Society Free from Asbestos”, which included a ban on the import of chrysotile asbestos and asbestos-containing products. The government assigned a number of government agencies to take action to implement this policy.

According to the Russian Chrysotile Assocation, however, Russia has succeeded in crushing these plans. The Russian Chrysotile Assocation is an organisation that lobbies on behalf of the Russian asbestos industry. It promotes industry propaganda that chrysotile asbestos can be “safely used” and “renders legal assistance, marketing and other services to the members of the Association.”

According to the Association’s newsletter (English translation):

Russia and Thailand have agreed to deferment of measures to prohibit the import of chrysotile asbestos, said the head of the Russian delegation at a meeting of the subcommittee on Russian-Thai trade and Economic Cooperation, Igor Manylov.

Following the meeting, the parties agreed to postpone Thailand’s ban on the use and trade of asbestos until the solution of the corresponding joint expert group who will present their work to the next meeting of the Joint Russian-Thai Commission on Bilateral cooperation. The Russian side has also initiated a study with the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) of the impact of asbestos and asbestos containing materials on human health, said Manylov.

Thailand, it should be recalled, was concerned with issues related to the safe use of asbestos. In particular, since 2010, authorities ordered suppliers to indicate that the use of asbestos can lead to lung cancer, and in 2012 planned to completely prohibit the import of this material. The government of Thailand has not explained on the basis of what research it has taken such severe measures.

It is offensive that Russia is intervening in domestic affairs in Thailand in order to protect the profits of the Russian asbestos industry. It shows a profound disrespect for democracy and for the right of the people of Thailand to take their own decisions and to set their own policy with regard to protecting the health of their own people.

It is indefensible that Russia is using its economic power in trade negotiations to bully Thailand to comply with Russia’s wishes and to serve Russia’s vested interests.

It is reprehensible that Russia denies the overwhelming scientific evidence that chrysotile asbestos is hazardous to health and that Russia is fighting against the work of the World Health Organization (WHO), which recommends that all use of chrysotile asbestos or other asbestos stop.

It is appalling that a WHO agency (IARC) is collaborating with a discredited Institute, the Russian Scientific Research Institute of Occupational Health – an Institute that is allied to the Russian asbestos industry – to carry out a research project on asbestos in Russia. The lead scientist for this IARC project is Evgeny Kovalevskiy, who works with the asbestos industry to promote the use of asbestos around the world and claims that he has seen no scientific evidence whatsoever to justify ending use of chrysotile asbestos or to justify even putting it on the Rotterdam Convention’s list of hazardous substances.

By collaborating with discredited asbestos propagandists like Kovalevskiy, IARC is allowing its name to be used, as the head of the Russian trade delegation has done in Thailand, to defeat the efforts of health professionals, who are trying to stop the use of asbestos.


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