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ESMO calls for lower exposure limits to asbestos, aiming to prevent new cancer cases, in its response to the consultation on the EU Asbestos at Work Directive

05 Dec 2022

The European Society for Medical Oncology (ESMO) responded to the recently launched public consultation on the revision of the EU’s Asbestos at Work Directive and called for the adoption of stricter measures to address the health-related impact of asbestos.

Asbestos, in all forms, is a proven carcinogenic substance that contributes significantly to work-related cancers in Europe. It is estimated that 78% of occupational cancers recognised in EU countries are related to asbestos (1). Moreover, the Scientific Report on Asbestos released by the European Chemicals Agency (ECHA) in February 2021 underlines the clear link between higher air concentration of asbestos and an increased excess life-time cancer risk for certain cancers.

As part of the actions aimed at preventing new cancer cases in Europe’s Beating Cancer Plan, the European Commission proposed in September 2022 to revise the Asbestos at Work Directive. A key element of this proposal is to lower the existing Occupational Exposure Limit (OEL) to asbestos from the current 100,000 fibres per m3 (0.1 fibres per cm3) to 10,000 fibres per m3 (0.01 fibres per cm3).

Improving cancer prevention and enhancing cancer control are at the core of ESMO’s mission. In light of this, and given the health implications of asbestos for workers in the EU, ESMO called for adopting an even more ambitious limit of 1,000 fibres per m3 (0.001 fibres per cm3). Such action is crucial for better guaranteeing the health and safety of workers in the EU and achieving the goals of Europe’s Beating Cancer Plan. It is also in line with the Resolution of the European Parliament of October 2021 on “Protecting workers from asbestos” which calls for the exposure limit to be set at 0.001 fibres per cm3.

ESMO’s full response can be accessed here.

For further information, please contact: publicpolicy@esmo.org


  1. European Occupational Diseases Statistics (EODS)

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