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Political Groups in European Parliament endorse stricter occupational exposure limit to asbestos following calls from ESMO

28 Mar 2023

At the meeting of the Committee on Employment and Social Affairs (EMPL) held on 1 March 2023, Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) expressed their cross-party support for a reduced Occupational Exposure Limit (OEL) to asbestos. This expression of support follows calls from the European Society for Medical Oncology (ESMO) for stricter European Union (EU) laws on asbestos, aiming to prevent new cancer cases caused by this highly carcinogenic substance.

The EU’s Asbestos at Work Directive, which sets EU-wide rules on work-related exposure to asbestos, is currently being revised by the EU institutions. As part of the revision process, the European Commission proposed in September 2022 to reduce the current OEL from 100,000 fibres per m3 (0.1 fibres per cm3) to 10,000 fibres per m3 (0.01 fibres per cm3).

Asbestos, in all forms, is a proven carcinogenic substance that contributes significantly to work-related cancers in Europe, with an estimated 78% of occupational cancers recognised in EU countries being related to asbestos 1. Given the dangers presented by asbestos, ESMO has been calling for the adoption of an even more ambitious limit of 1,000 fibres per m3 (0.001 fibres per cm3).

The EMPL Committee, which is preparing the European Parliament’s position on the Asbestos at Work Directive, met on 1 March to discuss the revision of the file. Following the calls made by ESMO, MEPs representing various political groups have now come out in support of reducing the OEL to 1,000 fibres per m3. ESMO welcomes the political support for the reduced OEL as this is not only crucial for protecting working in the EU but also key for achieving the prevention-related goals of Europe’s Beating Cancer Plan.

The draft report will be subject to a vote in the EMPL Committee on 13 April 2023. ESMO will continue to liaise with EU decision-makers throughout the legislative process to ensure the adoption of robust measures to prevent cancer cases caused by asbestos.

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