Canada is stalling listing of chrysotile asbestos (white asbestos) at the Conference of Parties to the Rotterdam Convention on Prior Informed Consent, meeting in Geneva, whereas India changed its stand and supported listing on Wednesday.

Listing will mandate exporting countries to provide data on the mineral in advance to importing countries to enable them to take informed decisions on imports. Exports will be permitted only to countries that explicitly consent to imports.

Canada, which exports large quantities of white asbestos to developing countries including India, said it would not join a consensus. India announced that it had reconsidered its opposition to listing and agreed to chair a small breakout group to continue discussions with opponents to listing about their specific concerns.

IISD (International Institute for Sustainable Development) reporting services said on Thursday that the change of heart of India took most delegates by surprise and environmental NGOs lauded India for “ending the deadlock.”

Several non-governmental organisations in India oppose the use of asbestos because of the risk posed to workers and others. Studies by the National Institute of Occupational Health, Ahmedabad, have shown that long-term exposure to any type of asbestos can lead to the development of asbestosis, lung cancer and mesothelioma (a form of cancer). There was controversy in Tamil Nadu over using asbestos sheet for roofing of school buildings and housing for the poor.

As opposition from countries other than Canada for listing of asbestos has weakened, some delegates are considering adoption of the proposal for listing by “general agreement” (excluding Canada).