EU likely to enact new asbestos exposure limitations to law

EU likely to enact new asbestos exposure limitations to law

European Union lawmakers are under pressure to enact new legislation to end the threat that asbestos poses to workers in an unprecedented move. Generally, the European Commission puts forward proposals for new laws, but in October of last year, a majority of the EU parliament called for a strategy to end the ongoing damage of asbestos to workers’ health.

It is estimated that across the European Union, which contains 27 countries, covering a population of more than 447,000,000, has recorded 90,000 asbestos-related deaths annually.

With an unusual majority, the EU is asking for a broad asbestos strategy under new framework which would include a framework binding members to act on asbestos risks, in addition to new occupational exposure limits significantly lower than current standards, a compulsory building register for asbestos presence and an EU-wide recognition and compensation scheme for those affected.

In September this year, the commission tabled a package they have called “Towards an asbestos-free future” which indicated that both the parliament and commission shared a view to acting on the issue.

Tony Musu of the European Trade Union Institute explained that the “legislative proposal” as it pertains to proposed lower exposure limits “is disappointing on two counts, not only is the proposed OEL reduction insufficient to effectively protect the health of exposed workers, but the optical microscopy technique recommended for measuring it is archaic”.

For lower exposure limits to be implemented, electron microscopy is required for the detection of fibres, but the European Construction Industry Federation (FIEC), objected to this proposal, saying: “Very specific tools and expertise would be required (mostly using electron microscopic methods). This is particularly costly and challenging for SMEs”.

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