For a better protection of workers against asbestos!

This Monday, 27 of September 2021, the European Parliament's committee on Employment and social affairs (EMPL) has adopted an own-initiative report on the protection of workers from asbestos. Asbestos remains the main cause of occupational cancers, despite its EU-wide ban in 2005. This text puts forward ambitious proposals, with a view to influence the revision of the Asbestos Directive that the European Commission intends to propose in 2022.

Véronique Trillet-Lenoir, shadow rapporteur for the Renew Europe group, was strongly involved in the drafting of the compromises adopted. With this text, which must now be adopted in the plenary of the European Parliament, the EMPL Committee notably calls for:

  • Taking the opportunity of the Green Deal “Renovation Wave” to accelerate asbestos removal in Europe. The generalisation of the screening of buildings containing asbestos would make it possible to map remaining asbestos in order to assess the efforts needed and to monitor the progress made.
  • Strengthening the protection of workers against asbestos exposure, through reinforced training and protection requirements on construction sites. One of the key proposals supported by a majority of MEPs is to lower the occupational exposure limit to asbestos to 1000 fibers/m3 (from the current 100,000 fibers/m3), which would, according to data from the European Chemicals Agency (ECHA), reduce the risk of developing cancer by a factor of 100.
  • Improving and facilitating the recognition of asbestos-related occupational diseases, urging Member States to strengthen financial support for victims and their families.
  • Investing in research, to improve both asbestos removal techniques and waste management.
  • Ensuring social justice in the transition toward an asbestos-free Europe: the financial cost mustn’t lead modest owners to avoid renovation, to the detriment of their health.
  • Ensuring epidemiological monitoring by making mesothelioma, a cancer whose main risk factor is asbestos, a disease that must be systematically declared to the health authorities, and keeping registers of workers exposed to asbestos.
  • Playing a leading role for a global ban of asbestos, which is still used in countries like China, Russia and Brazil.

These proposals testify to a vision of "health in all policies", supported by Véronique Trillet-Lenoir. The European cancer plan, for which she is the EP rapporteur, will also benefit victims and those exposed.

"By using the opportunity of the Renovation Wave of the Green Deal today, without compromising on workers protection, we could spare future generations the threat that asbestos still poses almost 20 years after its EU-wide ban. This would be a major investment for public health, and a strong example of the social Europe and Health Union we want to build," concludes the MEP.

Press contact: