The European Economic and Social Committee (EESC) and the Committee of the Regions have held a joint conference to discuss the continuing widespread risk of asbestos exposure to Europe's citizens and the steps that need to be taken to reduce it over the coming years.
Despite a Europe-wide ban on asbestos since 2005, the World Health Organisation reports that between 20,000 and 30,000 cases of asbestos-related diseases are recorded every year in the EU alone, and more than 300,000 citizens are expected to die from mesothelioma by 2030 in the EU. This places asbestos related deaths at a comparable level to those expected to result from road accidents during the same period.
Asbestos is still found in many places, such as ships, trains, machinery, tunnels and in pipes in public and private water distribution networks. Asbestos was used extensively in buildings erected between 1961 and 1990, with millions of tonnes still present in buildings, not only putting building and maintenance workers at risk but potentially anybody present or occupying the property.
Also alarming is the emerging risk for everyday consumers associated with imported consumer and other products containing asbestos which are slipping through EU Market Surveillance controls.
In order to protect public health, the EESC Opinion urges the European Commission to develop action plans for asbestos removal and management which could cost between 10-15 billion Euros per country for some of the larger EU countries, based on two countries' estimates, and to establish a clear link between safe removal of asbestos and energy efficiency renovation of buildings.
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