Resolution: European Asbestos Seminar
Although the European Union has adopted directives to ban the use of all types of asbestos by 2005, scientists predict that the total number of asbestos-related fatalities in the coming thirty years could exceed five hundred thousand in Western Europe alone. The origin of the asbestos exposure is predominantly occupational. However, asbestos-related fatalities from environmental sources of exposure can be significant. In view of the rising number of asbestos victims, the delegates to the European Asbestos Seminar held at the European Parliament on 7 & 8 June, 2001 wish to make the following recommendations to the European Commission, the European Parliament and governments of Member States.
Regarding the Politics of Prevention:
the support of local, national and international networks for the identification and recording of sources of occupational and environmental asbestos exposure; the provision of practical and financial assistance for work undertaken to compile an inventory of these sources;
the timely provision to people at risk of accurate information on the presence and hazards of asbestos and asbestos products;
the rejection of proposals intended to raise the current level of acceptable concentration of asbestos in waste material;
the development and implementation of techniques for treatment of asbestos-containing waste;
the rejection of present or future exemptions on the use of asbestos such as the current derogation permitting the continued use of asbestos for chlorine production.
Regarding Victims’ Rights:
the harmonisation of criteria for the identification and compensation of asbestos-related diseases caused by occupational and environmental exposure;
the study of inter-country legislative differences regarding legal responsibility for asbestos-related diseases.
Regarding New Research Priorities:
a commitment to medical surveillance of exposed populations in order to provide victims with access to effective medical treatment and compensation;
a commitment to develop effective diagnostic and therapeutic approaches for asbestos-related diseases;
a commitment to monitor the current burden of asbestos-related disease and to continuously update epidemiological predictions;
a commitment to integrate clinical research with investigations into the human and social costs of asbestos-related diseases to victims and their families.
Regarding Double Standards:
the monitoring of the operations of European companies and their subsidiaries in non-EU countries; the identification and prosecution of corporate behaviour which infringes European asbestos regulations;
the enactment and enforcement of legislation which ensures that EU corporations guilty of exposing EU workers, the public and the environment to asbestos will be held liable; the setting of compensation levels guaranteed by funds put up by Member States;
the encouragement of the ILO and WHO to update asbestos-related measures such as ILO convention 162 and Chrysotile Criteria 203 in line with European Directives.
The Seminar acknowledges the pivotal role of asbestos victims’ groups in improving the plight of asbestos victims and strongly urges cooperation with these groups, other social movements and NGOs working in this field as is the practice of the United Nations. We stress the necessity and urgency of funding for projects intended to improve the situation of asbestos victims.
It is clear that many East European countries have problems relating to the unregulated and continuing use of asbestos. We strongly recommend that steps be taken to evaluate the extent of these problems.
Outside the established market economies, exposure to asbestos is a significant occupational and environmental hazard. This observation was confirmed by Indian and Brazilian representatives at the Seminar. As there is no "safe threshold," any exposure/contact with asbestos can cause fatal lung disease including cancer. Increasing efforts to market asbestos in the developing world are being made by the international asbestos industry. It is imperative that every possible effort be made to provide objective scientific information on the hazards of asbestos and the availability of safer alternatives to the countries which have not banned asbestos. In addition, research to quantify past and current asbestos use and production should be commissioned; this information should be disseminated to all "at risk" populations.
The EU countries which have not yet banned asbestos, Luxembourg, Greece and Portugal, should be urged to do so immediately.
June 8, 2001