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New EU asbestos limit still leaves workers’ lives at risk

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EU action on asbestos exposure could save up to 90,000 lives a year across Europe – but the European Commission has sided with business lobbyists who want to limit measures in order to save money.

The European Commission has today proposed a review of the 2009 Asbestos at Work Directive, which set a dangerously high maximum exposure level of 0,1 fibres of asbestos per cm3.

While the use of asbestos is now banned in Europe, workers are still at risk of contracting cancer after coming into contact with it, particularly construction workers during the renovation and demolition of buildings. There were 90,730 asbestos-related deaths across the EU28, according to the Lancet, in 2019 and European Parliament research said that would reach 120,000 by 2029 without further action.

The European Parliament voted in October 2021 for a new limit of 0,001 fibres/cm3, based on the finding by the International Commission of Occupational Health that any limit under that would not protect against asbestos related cancer.

However, the Commission has proposed a limit of only 0,01 fibres/cm3 as called for by business associations. That would not improve standards in member states such as Denmark, France and Germany and is significantly below the standard of 0,002 fibres/cm3 set in the Netherlands.



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