The Fight for Ukraine Sovereignty over its Asbestos Policy
With the end of the summer break, Ukrainian Deputies are returning to Parliament (Verkhovna Rada) and to the thorny problem of what to do about asbestos, a substance which they pledged to ban as one of the conditions for European Union membership.1 A year ago (September 20, 2020) draft legislation entitled: On the Public Health System (no. 4142) was finalized; it was adopted by Parliament on its first reading on February 4, 2021. Article 27 of the bill contained the following language:
The production and use of asbestos, regardless of the type, as well as asbestos-containing products and materials, is prohibited in technological processes and in the implementation of construction and installation work at any facilities. Safety measures and protection against the harmful effects of asbestos and materials and products containing asbestos are determined by state health regulations.2
The pushback on Ukraines plans to ban asbestos has been orchestrated by Kazakh stakeholders, in close collaboration with their Russian allies. The public face of the pro-asbestos offensive included articles such as one uploaded on August 6, 2021 warning of the dire economic and social consequences of banning asbestos.3 The content contained misleading and erroneous statements such as those below:
Behind the scenes there was no summer vacation for asbestos industry lobbyists dealing with the fallout from a series of high-level meetings and discussions which had taken place over recent weeks between representatives of Ukraine and Kazakhstan. Present during bilateral negotiations in June, 2021 were Ukraine Prime Minister Denis Shmyhal, Kazakhstans Ambassador to Ukraine Darkhan Kaletayev and the Kazakh Minister of Trade and Integration Bakhyt Sultanov. Describing his participation in the 14th meeting of the International Commission on Economic Cooperation in Kiev, on June 18, 2021 Kazakh Minister Sultanov did not mince his words when he said that a Ukraine ban on asbestos, would hurt our [asbestos] exporter Kostanay Minerals5 and would prevent any increase in Kazakh oil exports to Ukraine.6 In a June 19 posting, he pointed out that Ukraine did not have the base to create [Covid-19] vaccines, whilst Kazakh pharmaceutical companies did. The threat was implicit: vaccine exports from Kazakhstan to Ukraine were dependant on the asbestos ban being reversed or at least delayed.7 Minister Sultanovs final Facebook comments on this subject, reinforced the high level at which these meetings were conducted mentioning far-ranging discussions with Ukraines Prime Minister Denis Shmyhal. We need, Sultanov told Ukraines Prime Minister to hold bilateral expert consultations on the subject of chrysotile asbestos. According to the concluding section of the Ministers June 19th upload, negotiations in Kiev were continuing.8
Last Friday (September 17, 2021), TV personality and author Sergii Ivanov urged Facebook users in Ukraine to fight back at the deadly interference by the KazakhRussia asbestos cabal which was pressurizing Ukraine Deputies to postpone the asbestos ban.9 The industry lobby was, he said using state blackmail to achieve its goals, offering Kazakh oil in exchange for Ukraine preserving the status quo. This is not the first time that the asbestos lobby has resorted to blackmail. In 2017 Russia banned all imports of Ceylon tea from Sri Lanka in light of the Governments plans to ban asbestos; the Sri Lanka asbestos ban was postponed indefinitely and tea shipments recommenced.10 In 2018, Russia threatened to embargo all imports of Vietnamese underwear in retaliation for the implementation of a 2023 deadline to outlaw the use of asbestos-containing construction products in Vietnam.11
Ivanov urged his followers and Ukraine Deputies to stop tolerating the RussianKazakh asbestos mafia and to follow through with the ban. If any more evidence were needed of the wisdom of his recommendation, then it could be found in a 92-page report published last week by the World Health Organization and the International Labor Organization which substantiated a staggering rise in global rates of workplace asbestos cancers between 2000 and 2016 with increases in mortality of: ~30% for tracheal and bronchial cancers; 17% for lung cancer; 21% for ovarian cancer; 13% for laryngeal cancer; and 82% for mesothelioma. If you bear in mind that as well as deaths caused by occupational exposures there will be even more caused by environmental and domestic exposures, then the sooner Ukraine bans asbestos, the sooner its citizens will enjoy the right to live an asbestos-free life.12
September 20, 2021
1 Conditions for EU Membership.
Kazan-Allen, L. Ukraines Asbestos War. April 15, 2021.
2 Украине хотят запретить материалы с асбестом [Ukraine wants to ban materials with asbestos]. April 10, 2021. https://novosti-n.org/news/V-Ukrayne-hotyat-zapretyt-materyali-s-asbestom-214176
3 Tkachuk, N. А как там у них за бугром? Мировая практика регулирования использования асбеста [And what about them over the hill? World practice of regulating the use of asbestos]. August 2, 2012.
5 According to its website, the Kazakhstan company Kostanay Minerals JSC is a mining company specializing in the extraction of chrysotile asbestos and the production of chrysotile fiber. The company is the worlds leading manufacturer and exporter of chrysotile asbestos, one of the most important elements used in the global industry.
6 Facebook Post on June 18, 2021 by Bakhyt Sultanov.
7 Facebook Post on June 19, 2021 by Bakhyt Sultanov.
8 Facebook Post on June 19, 2021 (Part 3) by Bakhyt Sultanov.
10 Media Release. Economic blackmail by Russia against Sri Lankas asbestos ban decision slammed by international trade unions and health networks. January 3, 2018.
12 WHO/ILO Joint Estimates of the Work-related Burden of Disease and Injury, 20002016.