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Given that up to 78% of recognised occupational cancers in the EU Member States are asbestos-related, the comprehensive approach presented today by the European Commission is very important.
In order to better protect people and the environment against asbestos-related risks and to guarantee a future without asbestos, it is presenting:
- a proposal to amend the Asbestos at Work Directive to improve workers’ protection by significantly lowering the occupational exposure limit to asbestos;
- a communication on working towards an asbestos-free future, tackling asbestos in a comprehensive way, from improving diagnoses and treatment of diseases caused by asbestos, to identification and safe removal and waste treatment of asbestos.
Although asbestos has been banned in all its forms in the EU since 2005, it can still be found in older buildings. Work on materials containing asbestos, for example during renovations, can release the fibres, which pose a health threat, especially when inhaled, which can lead to mesothelioma or lung cancer after an average of 30 years between exposure and the first signs of disease.
The actions put forward today are part of the prevention pillar of Europe’s Beating Cancer Plan, and will contribute to the objectives of the European Green Deal and the European Pillar of Social Rights.
It should be noted that in a Resolution of 20 October 2021 containing recommendations to the Commission on the protection of workers against asbestos, the European Parliament supported a limit of 0.001 fibres per cm3. The European Trade Union Confederation has therefore stated that “trade unions will work with MEPs and relevant ministers to improve [the] Commission’s proposal”.