Asbestos A Never Ending Story 

by Laurie Kazan-Allen



Trade Unionist Lars Vedsmand1 has been involved for over twenty years in the struggle to protect Danish workers from hazardous asbestos exposures. Two articles he has just published in the magazine of the Danish Confederation of Construction Workers Unions reveal that even in Denmark, a country which banned asbestos in 1986, the asbestos hazard persists.2 In Documentation: Asbestos Causes Cancer Among Construction Workers, Vedsmand summarizes the contents of a report3 by the Danish National Cancer Registry about the cancer incidence amongst construction workers. Some of the findings are shown the table below which lists professions having a statistically significant increased relative risk (RR) and adjusted relative risk for a variety of asbestos-related cancers.

TradeCancerRRAdjusted RR
 lung, not specified3.13.7
 peritoneal mesothelioma4.13.8
Carpenters/joinerslung mesothelioma2.22.1
 lung mesothelioma6.56
 peritoneal mesothelioma51.564.5
Electricianslung mesothelioma2.32
 lung not specified5.28.7
 peritoneal mesothelioma3.85.1
General contractorslaryngeal1.41.3
 lung mesothelioma1.31.4

Following the submission of this paper, the Danish Minister for Employment, Claus Hjort Frederiksen announced that the Asbestos Act would be amended so that the Danish Cancer Registry would automatically register cancer cases with the National Board of Industrial Injuries. This should ensure that people who have occupationally contracted asbestos-related lung cancer will be compensated.

In Asbestos – A Never Ending Story, Vedsmand comments on recent media reports of asbestos contamination found in Danish trains and ferries and highlights the invisible problem of asbestos in Danish buildings and sports arenas. He says that the decades old policy of encapsulating asbestos products is no longer justifiable and that Denmark must devise a National Action Plan to prevent occupational asbestos exposures which should aim for the removal of all asbestos in Denmark; in the meantime, an up-to-date National Asbestos Registry, which is electronically accessible to the public, is needed. In addition, current rules which limit the duty to manage asbestos in situ to employers with indoor asbestos products are inadequate and need a radical overhaul. The BAT Union has demanded urgent action by the Minister of Employment and Parliament to set up an expert working group to consider immediate action for asbestos registration and removal.

March 14, 2007


1 E-mail:

2 Vedsmand notes that an increasing number of asbestos-related cases are being reported to the National Compensation Board.

3 Survey of Cancer Risk (1970-2003) among Employees in the Building and Construction Branch in Denmark. This report was commissioned by the tripartite Sector Work Environment Council for Construction.



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