Absolute no

To abestos in the European Union

Published: Monday 31 January 2005

EU suppresses white asbestos p (Credit: Natas)The year 2005 heralded the complete ban on asbestos, a mineral fibre used in building construction, across the EU. A five-year phase-out period permitted under a directive of the European Commission ended on January 1, 2005.

According to a written procedure signed on July 26, 1999, the introduction of new applications of asbestos cement materials, friction products, seals and gaskets will now be prohibited across the 25-member EU. The restrictions apply to chrysotile (white asbestos). Amosite and crocidolite asbestos have already been banned earlier. "No threshold level of exposure has yet been identified below which chrysotile asbestos does not pose carcinogenic risks... an effective way of protecting human health is to prohibit the use of chrysotile asbestos fibres and products containing them," the directive says. Of the original 15 EU member states, only Portugal and Greece were still using asbestos when the ban came into force. Many of the new EU members had banned asbestos in the run-up to their joining the community.

"The EU asbestos ban marks a landmark in the global campaign to ban asbestos. The fact that 450 million Europeans refuse to use asbestos cannot help but influence decisions taken elsewhere," says Laurie Kazan-Allen, coordinator of the International Ban Asbestos Secretariat, London. Meanwhile, the Ban Asbestos Network of India said in a statement: "With the complete ban in EU, almost 40 countries have completely banned asbestos. But the Minerals and Metals Trading Corporation under the Union ministry of commerce continues to trade in white asbestos and its products, and the Union ministry of health and family welfare and Union ministry of environment and forests issue contradictory statements about the carcinogenic property of asbestos.

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