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Census/Asbestos/E-Cigarettes/Ethics/Ukraine/Covid-19/Air pollution

The manufacture, marketing and use of asbestos have been banned in Europe since the end of 2004*. But EU law allowed one exception for imported diaphragms incorporating chrysotile asbestos fibres for existing electrolysis cells. This highly specific let-out was included so that a German chlorine production plant and a Swedish hydrogen production plant could continue operating "until they reach the end of their service life, or until suitable asbestos-free substitutes become available, whichever is the sooner". 

Ten years on, under pressure from the multinational Dow Chemicals, the European Commission and the body in charge of REACH implementation, the European Chemicals Agency (ECHA), are thinking of extending the let-out up to 2025 or after. Furthermore, documents available on the ECHA website indicate that this derogation introduced in Annex XVII of REACH would be extended to allow not only diaphragms containing asbestos fibres, but also the asbestos fibres needed to maintain them to be imported into Europe. If these proposals go through, tonnes of asbestos could be legally imported into Europe each year. 

Asbestos victim support groups are taking action. In a recent letter to the European Commission, they protest that ECHA’s proposed changes to the existing derogation are flatly at odds with the EU’s demands for a worldwide ban on asbestos. They also argue that, in pure law, it flies in the face of European Court of Justice rulings that the derogations laid down in REACH’s Annex XVII should be interpreted very narrowly. They also point out that asbestos-free electrolysis methods of chlorine manufacture are available now, so there is no good reason for extending this production method. 

Both the Commission and ECHA are defending their decision by claiming that the risks to workers in European firms are fully controlled. 

ECHA is currently running a public consultation on the proposed amendments to Annex XVII of REACH. All interested parties are invited to submit their comments preferably before 29 May 2014 and no later than 19 September 2014.

* Directive 1999/77/EC of 26 July 1999 relating to restrictions on the marketing and use of certain dangerous substances and preparations.

Position Statement on Asbestos from the Joint Policy Committee of the Societies of Epidemiology (JPC-SE) June 4, 2012

The following literature contains regulations or statements from governmental or other official institutions as well as articles concerning the current discussion about the influence of the asbestos industry on the awareness of the hazards resulting from the exposure to asbestos. 

Research articles can be found in the Knowledge Center.

Ruff K. "Further evidence of asbestos impropriety at IARC, the World Health Organization’s cancer agency"

Kathleen Ruff,

Hearing on asbestos related occupational health threats and prospects for abolishing all existing asbestos. Committee on employment and social affairs of the European parliament, September 18th 2012, 17:00 - 18:30

Download preliminary agenda