The European Commission recently presented a plan to Member States to better protect people and environment from asbestos and ensure an asbestos-free future.

Asbestos is a highly dangerous, cancer-causing substance that is still present in many buildings and is responsible for many avoidable deaths in the EU. Although all forms of asbestos are banned in the EU since 2005, asbestos remains present in older buildings.

As much as 78% of occupational cancers recognised in the Member States are related to asbestos.  To address the matter, the European Commission is proposing 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.

Another proposal is to amend the Asbestos at Work Directive to improve workers’ protection by significantly lowering the occupational exposure limit to asbestos.

Together with awareness-raising and other improvements in health prevention and treatment, this proposal will bring us closer to our EU aim of beating cancer. It also provides important guidance to employers and creates a level playing field for businesses operating across the EU, while decreasing health care costs related to medical treatment.