S&Ds are disappointed with the revision of the European law on the protection of workers from asbestos proposed today by the European Commission. No time should be wasted and no effort spared to limit workers’ exposure to this highly dangerous substance – the main cause of work-related cancers in Europe*. This is clearly a missed opportunity to prove the commitment to the vision of no work-related deaths.
We have been calling for a rigorous revision of the asbestos directive to guarantee proper protection against work-related cancers. That requires stricter exposure limits set at 0,001 fibres/cm3 (1000 fibres/m3), as we urged in the European Parliament’s resolution adopted in October last year. Today’s proposals fall short of this target.
There is a silver lining in the Commission’s promises regarding a wider European strategy on protection against asbestos, stretching beyond the workplace. The S&Ds, who have been repeatedly calling for a comprehensive European strategy on asbestos, expect these promises to be translated into concrete binding action without any further delay.
Agnes Jongerius MEP, S&D spokesperson for employment, said:
“Asbestos exposure is the number one cause of work-related cancers in Europe. The research is clear – there are no safe levels of asbestos exposure. While asbestos has been banned in the European Union since 2005, and even before that in many member states, 80% of work-related cancers recognised in the Union are linked to this substance. We will not solve this problem with today’s proposals.
“We need a stricter exposure limit and protective measures in case of exposure, mandatory screenings of buildings before sale or rent, public asbestos registers, as well as the prohibition of encapsulation and sealing of detected asbestos. Those workers who have already fallen ill from asbestos must have access to early diagnosis, treatment, rehabilitation, and compensation. We need a convincing and comprehensive European strategy in synergy with other flagship projects, such as the Renovation Wave foreseen by the Green Deal.
“Health and safety at work have always been one of our top priorities. Strict European rules on asbestos are a vital part of this endeavour. Furthermore, we need a stronger action against asbestos globally. Approximately 250,000 people across the world die each year due to asbestos exposure. Our ultimate goal is a global ban. Only an asbestos-free world is a safe world.”
Note to editors:
More than half of annual occupational deaths in the European Union can be attributed to work-related cancers and 80% of those are related to asbestos. An increased risk of cancer has been observed even in people exposed to very low levels of asbestos or by second-hand exposure. The cost of occupational cancer in the European Union is estimated to be between €270 and €610 billion per year, equalling 1.8 % to 4.1% of GDP.