Occupational cancers can be prevented and health care costs can be reduced

JA – 01/2023

The European Parliament’s Research Service supports the parliamentary work undertaken by its Members of Parliament through in-depth analyses. In this context in January 2023, it published an evaluation of the European Commission's impact analysis for the Committee on Employment and Social Affairs (EMPL) covering the amendment to Directive 2009/148/EU about protecting workers from the risks related to exposure to asbestos at work (Asbestos Directive).

Better regulation

This briefing, which was prepared for the Committee on Employment and Social Affairs (EMPL), provided an in-depth analysis of whether the European Commission's main criteria for improved regulation were being met. The briefing also provided an initial overview of the overall approach as well as the results of the impact analysis covering the amendment to the Asbestos Directive.

Briefing: Contents of the impact analysis

The impact analysis also identified two other objectives in addition to the initiative's overall objective, i.e. preventing occupational cancers related to asbestos. Included here were more effective protection against asbestos hazards by revising the maximum allowable concentrations based on the latest scientific findings as well as the aim of providing uniform protection for workers against asbestos throughout Europe. Furthermore, the social and economic consequences were also listed.

According to this, a significant number of occupational cancers caused by asbestos could be prevented over the next 40 years (between 75 and 97 per cent of cases) and health care costs could also be reduced (between 166 - 418 million euros). However, the briefing criticised the fact that the impact analysis identified various proposals for lower maximum allowable concentrations, but it did not explain any additional protective measure concepts, such as the wearing of protective masks once a limit value has been exceeded.

Background: Proposal to amend the Asbestos Directive

According to the European Commission, occupational cancers are the most common cause of work-related deaths in Europe. 78 per cent of the occupational cancers recognised in the member states are asbestos-related. It was under this context that the European Commission published its proposal to amend the Asbestos Directive on 28 September 2022. DSV had already expressed its opinion about the European Commission's plans in a statement released in advance and welcomed the fact that the Asbestos Directive is to be updated to meet the current state of scientific knowledge.

During their council meeting, the Member States agreed upon a general approach to maximum allowable concentrations for asbestos in the workplace and they also approved the European Commission's proposal to reduce the workplace exposure limit value to 0.01 f/cm³ as a shift average. The European Parliament is currently working on a position that rapporteur Véronique Trillet-Lenoir included in her draft report that was released on 11 January 2023, and it will be discussed by the Employment Committee of the European Parliament in February.