Action plan for a Europe free from Asbestos – More than 300,000 asbestos deaths expected in Europe by 2030
Sheila Pantry OBE
Asbestos continues to be a problem that still produces deaths and related diseases every year in Europe, despite being banned since 2005. Thus, ‘Freeing Europe safely from asbestos’ was the motto of a conference held on 24 June 2015 by the European Economic and Social Committee (EESC) and the Committee of the Regions (CoR), as an encounter not only to make an overview of the strategy and planned actions, but to demand compensation for the victims and define which are the most appropriate public policies to protect European citizens from this risk, and the steps that need to be taken to reduce it over the coming years. This event was a follow-up action to the EESC’s Opinion on Asbestos which was published in February 2015.
According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), between 20,000 and 30 000 cases of asbestos-related diseases are recorded every year in the EU alone, and more than 300 000 citizens are expected to die from mesothelioma by 2030 in the EU. This places asbestos related deaths at a comparable level to those expected to result from road accidents during the same period.
Asbestos is still found in many places, such as ships, trains, machinery, tunnels and in pipes in public and private water distribution networks. Asbestos was used extensively in buildings erected between 1961 and 1990, with millions of tonnes still present in buildings, not only putting building and maintenance workers at risk but potentially anybody present or occupying the property. Over 80% of schools in one country alone, the United Kingdom, still contain asbestos and even its national parliament is not immune. Also alarming is the emerging risk for everyday consumers associated with imported consumer and other products containing asbestos which are slipping through EU Market Surveillance controls.
In order to protect public health, the EESC Opinion urges the European Commission to develop action plans for asbestos removal and management which could cost between 10-15 billion Euros per country for some of the larger EU countries, based on two countries’ estimates, and to establish a clear link between safe removal of asbestos and energy efficiency renovation of buildings.
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This month’s OSHWORLD FOCUS The UK Health and Safety Executive launches new workplace health expert committee.
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