On the initiative of S&D Group vice-president Stephen Hughes, the European Parliament on 14th March called to eradicate asbestos by 2028.
Even though asbestos is banned in Europe, it is still present in millions of buildings and public facilities and it still kills thousands of people every year. According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), there are between 20,000 and 30,000 cases of asbestos-related diseases recorded every year in the EU alone.
This problem was also underlined by S&D MEP Stephen Hughes when presenting the report to the European Parliament. “Many people today believe that we got rid of asbestos in the 90s when we discovered its harmful effects on human health.” And further: “But in Europe and the rest of the world there are still millions of buildings, offices, ships and pipes which contain asbestos, despite an EU-wide ban adopted in 1999.”
The resolution on asbestos, which was adopted with a large majority (558 votes in favour – 51 against), calls for the implementation of a co-ordinated EU strategy to remove all asbestos. The strategy should include a screening and registration programme for public buildings contaminated by asbestos as well as a roadmap for its removal. It should also address the issue of waste. People should also be better informed about the risk of asbestos contamination in their homes.
This EP initiative can be a huge step towards an asbestos-free Europe. The EFBWW, which was closely involved in drafting the report, welcomes very much the adoption of this resolution. The EFBWW started its own asbestos campaign in 2010, aiming at an asbestos free Europe till 2023. Since then, the EFBWW and its national affiliates have developed many initiatives both at the European and national levels.
The EFBWW has established a close collaboration with Members of the European Parliament on the asbestos issue and has been co-organizing, together with the S&D group, an asbestos seminar on 30th June 2011. From the beginning the EFBWW has supported the idea of a Parliaments’ initiative report on asbestos and has been closely involved with providing expertise for the preparation of the report.
In parallel the EFBWW was and still is demanding a strong new Community strategy on occupational safety and health. This strategy also needs to encompass concrete action towards an asbestos free Europe. The Commission is now requested to take over parts of the EP demands in the new strategy on occupational safety and health. This was also underlined by MEP Stephen Hughes: “I am therefore very glad that the Parliament has today set a clear deadline for the total eradication of asbestos by 2028. With such a large majority of this house supporting my report we have sent a strong signal to the European Commission. It must now act.”
The EP report will also be used by the EFBWW to initiate national plans for the safe removal of all still existing asbestos in the EU Member States.
The EFBWW congratulates the EP for its excellent report on the asbestos issue. Especially the comprehensive list of demands should become the guide for policy makers and all practitioners dealing with the asbestos topic.