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European Commission acts to better protect people from asbestos and ensure an asbestos-free future

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Asbestos is a highly dangerous, cancer-causing substance that is still present in many of our buildings and is responsible for many avoidable deaths in the EU.

Today, the Commission presents a comprehensive approach to better protect people and the environment from asbestos and ensure an asbestos-free future.

The package includes:

(*) 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
(*) a proposal to amend the Asbestos at Work Directive to improve workers’ protection by significantly lowering the occupational exposure limit to asbestos

Although all forms of asbestos are banned in the EU since 2005, asbestos remains present in older buildings. It poses a health threat when materials containing asbestos are disturbed and fibres are released and inhaled, for instance during renovations.

As much as 78% of occupational cancers recognised in the Member States are related to asbestos. When inhaled, airborne asbestos fibres can lead, for example, to mesothelioma and lung cancer, with an average lag of 30 years between exposure and the first signs of disease.

Therefore, addressing the health risks of exposure to asbestos is essential to protect people’s health and the environment, while ensuring decent living and working conditions. This is even more relevant in the context of the green transition and our EU ambition to increase the renovation rate of buildings, which are responsible for more than one third of energy-related greenhouse gas emissions.



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