White asbestos findings may prompt EU ban

Scientific committee finds substitute materials less likely to damage human health

The European Commission is to decide "in the next few weeks" whether to propose an EU ban on the use of white asbestos, or chrysotile, following scientific advice that available substitutes are less harmful. Suggestions that cellulose, PVA and P-aramid fibres might be just as dangerous as white asbestos blocked an EU move to restrict the product's use earlier this year, despite a majority of countries supporting an EU ban (ENDS Daily 14 April). The Commission's Scientific Committee on Toxicity, Ecotoxicity and the Environment (CSTEE) has now reported that the alternatives all pose a lower threat to health than white asbestos. While the committee stresses that toxicological data on the three is limited, it says that they release far lower amounts of "breathable" fibres, so cutting the risk of health damage. Published yesterday, and available on the CSTEE web pages, the report will now be examined by EU member states. EU industry commissioner Martin Bangemann will then decide whether to propose an EU ban. This would be framed as an amendment to the dangerous substances directive, which already bans blue and brown asbestos. A number of EU countries have imposed restrictions on white asbestos that go beyond EU requirements. Canada, the world's largest chrysotile exporter, recently lodged a complaint with the World Trade Organisation over France's decision last year to unilaterally ban the substance.

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