Ukraines Asbestos War
The issue of banning asbestos in Ukraine has been caught up in a geopolitical conflict over the countrys quest to join the European Union and the determination of its former ally and now occupier, Russia to prevent it from doing so. Throughout the 21st century, Russia has been the worlds biggest producer of chrysotile asbestos and, as such, has orchestrated diverse stratagems to protect global asbestos markets and discredit evidence about the health hazards posed by asbestos usage. At every turn, Ukraine asbestos stakeholders including but not limited to members of the Ukraine Chrysotile Association working with foreign lobbyists have attacked attempts in Ukraine to end the use of a substance banned in scores of countries as per recommendations by international agencies including the World Health Organization, the International Labor Organization, the International Agency for Research on Cancer and others.1
The first attempt by Ukraines Ministry of Health to ban asbestos (June 2017) was nullified in October 2017 by the Ministry of Justice and the State Regulatory Service which expunged the regulations from the State Register. On January 31, 2018 proceedings initiated by the Ministry of Health (MoH) against the quashing of the ban were begun at Kievs District Administrative Court; the MoH argued that the prohibitions should be reinstated on health grounds. The second hearing in this case took place on April 18, 2018 at which time applications made by the plaintiffs to submit evidence documenting the health hazards posed by the use of chrysotile asbestos were approved. On June 11, 2018, the three judges who heard the asbestos case at the Kiev Court upheld the right of Ukrainians to live a life free from asbestos exposures and upheld the MoHs 2017 asbestos ban regulations. Unfortunately, the happy ending which had been anticipated in light of this ruling was not to be. After intensive lobbying by vested interests, on August 7, 2018 the Kiev Appeal Administrative Court revoked the asbestos prohibitions on technical grounds. This ruling was confirmed by a verdict handed down by Ukraines Supreme Court (Court of Cassation) on March 29, 2019, as a result of which, the asbestos prohibitions were vacated.2
As part of the process to achieve EU membership, Ukraine must satisfy certain legal, political, economic and administrative requirements.3 To implement its obligations regarding public health, draft legislation entitled: On the Public Health System (no. 4142) dated September 22, 2020 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.4
Article 27 has proved the most contentious in the bill according to Mikhail Radutsky, Chair of the Parliamentary Committee for Health, Medical Care and Medical Insurance:
This bill had many opponents left, right, and center. Even in the Servant of the People faction, the attitude towards it was ambiguous, but, thank God, it passed the first reading. At the same time, by the second reading, the bill received about 900 amendments This law has found itself between a rock and a hard place because it finally prohibits the use of asbestos in Ukraine. And there is a lobbying group that argues for its continued use.5
One form the lobbying by pro-asbestos interests took was a series of infomercials articles purporting to be independent reporting but in reality, little more than press releases by the industry lobby. The texts warned of panic amongst villagers, slate (traditional)6 roofs being blacklisted, mandatory replacement of asbestos roofing and adverse financial consequences for farmers.7
Currently, the 900+ amendments submitted to draft legislation no. 4142 are under consideration. With Russian forces reported to be on the move, nothing in the region can be taken for granted. One can but hope that the people of Ukraine will succeed in their efforts to join with other like-minded democracies represented by the European Union and enjoy the privileges and rights bestowed to all EU members including the right to live a life free from toxic exposures to asbestos.
April 15, 2021
1 Asbestos Policies of International Agencies.
2 Details of the ups and downs in the attempt to ban asbestos in Ukraine can be found in the IBAS online archive:
Also see: В Украине хотят запретить использовать шифер и еще ряд стройматериалов. Заставят ли людей менять крыши? [In Ukraine, they want to ban the use of slate and a number of other building materials. Will people be forced to change roofs?] April 6, 2021.
3 Conditions for EU Membership.
4 В Украине хотят запретить материалы с асбестом [Ukraine wants to ban materials with asbestos]. April 10, 2021.
5 Законопроект о системе общественного здоровья ко второму чтению получил около 900 поправок – Радуцкий [The bill on the public health system received about 900 amendments to the second reading Radutsky]. April 7, 2021.
6 Traditional asbestos roofing material was, one reporter said: safe, affordable and time-tested.
В Украине хотят запретить использовать шифер и еще ряд стройматериалов. Заставят ли людей менять крыши [In Ukraine, they want to ban the use of slate and a number of building materials. Will people be forced to change roofs]. April 7, 2021.
7 В Украине хотят запретить использовать шифер и еще ряд стройматериалов. Заставят ли людей менять крыши? [In Ukraine, they want to ban the use of slate and a number of other building materials. Will people be forced to change roofs?] April 6, 2021.