The technical limit value for asbestos exposure should ultimately be set at a lower level than the Commission is currently proposing in a recent directive regulating the protection of workers from dangers of occupational asbestos exposure, the EESC said in an opinion adopted at its plenary session in December.

"Social partners can go beyond the new limit that will apply under the directive and take appropriate measures to further reduce the presence of asbestos fibres in workplaces," the EESC stated in the opinion on Protection from exposure to asbestos at work.

The EESC said that the technical limit should ultimately be set at 0.001 fibres/cm3, after a reasonable transition period.

"We welcome the Commission's ambition to reduce the incidence of cancer and its specific efforts to minimise exposure to asbestos at work. It is a good basis for moving forward in the longer term towards zero tolerance to asbestos exposure. But we believe that the EU should go beyond what is proposed by the Commission," said the rapporteur for the EESC opinion Ellen Nygren.

"There is no level of asbestos exposure that can be considered safe without the risk of cancer. Thus, despite the current ban on the use of new asbestos, there are still large amounts of work where workers are still exposed to this deadly substance," she warned.
According to figures presented at a recent EESC hearing, about 90 370 people die each year in the EU from asbestos-related cancer, demonstrating the need for a reduced limit value.

To meet this target, the EESC recommended drawing up a roadmap of complementary measures going beyond the Commission's proposal. They include financial support for businesses and regions that would otherwise be unable to achieve this objective.
Given that many people may be exposed to asbestos without even knowing it, the EESC called on the Commission to organise an information campaign to educate the public about asbestos and its harmful effects through all possible channels, including the media.

In the event that the risk of exposure is real or suspected, all workers should undergo checks with the results being documented, making sure their health is properly monitored and followed up every time they change job throughout their career. (ll)