WHO European Conference Region Asbestos

The World Health Organization (“WHO”) European Conference Region encompasses some of the most prosperous countries in both western and northern Europe. Sadly, this region has been rocked by asbestos-related illnesses. In fact, within the European Region asbestos is considered one of the most serious environmental health hazards that faces Europeans. Across the region around half of all work-related fatal cancers share a direct link to asbestos exposure in the work place. In order to tackle this serious environmental hazard, the WHO European Region, represented by all 16 member states, held an important meeting in Bonn, Germany earlier this month where occupational health experts and cancer registries were also represent.

Asbestos Issues in Europe

Each year over 100,000 people throughout the world die from workplace asbestos exposure-related illnesses. Years after their first exposure to asbestos, these people are dying from asbestosis, mesothelioma and lung cancer. Within the broader European region 37 countries have created an all out ban on all forms of asbestos. However, it is estimated that around 300 million people are vulnerable to asbestos exposure in their workplaces. In fact, in some of these 37 countries asbestos materials are still used and produced. The European countries that banned the use of asbestos were on the right track because the most efficient means of preventing asbestos-related diseases is to cease the use of all types of asbestos. This is because:

  • Every form of asbestos is a dangerous carcinogenic to humans;
  • There is no agreed upon safe level of asbestos exposure;
  • There are safer products that can be used in place of asbestos; and
  • Cancer risks are highly increased by even low levels of exposure to asbestos-containing materials.

The Parma Conference

The recent WHO European Region Asbestos Conference began by focusing on the progress made following the 2010 Parma Declaration on Environment and Health (“Parma Declaration”). The Parma Declaration held in Italy focused on the environmental and health issues that were facing the European region as a whole. During this meeting the WHO European Region members focused on the environmental and health challenges facing children, the poor and other vulnerable Europeans. The Parma Declaration required European Region members to act more generally to identify and neutralize the risks of exposure to carcinogens, like asbestos. It also required a commitment to the elimination of all asbestos-related illnesses by 2015. Specifically, at the conference a significant emphasis was placed on creating nationwide programs focused on bringing about the complete elimination of asbestos products in the European Region.

Suggestions for Changes

At the June 10-11, 2014 WHO/European Region meeting the participants came back with their findings about the different national initiatives necessary to combat asbestos-related illnesses at a global level. The concept of creating national registers that document occupational diseases and different related cancers was presented as a key tool for tracking the spread of carcinogenic and specifically asbestos-related illnesses. The use of registries would allow member states to:

  • Promote carcinogenic elimination actions in order to commence appropriate actions;
  • Assess national occupational-related illnesses, and other similarly related asbestos exposure-related illnesses; and
  • Create awareness amongst the general public and policy-makers about asbestos and other occupational-related illness issues.

Other issues discussed were increased training for healthcare professionals in order to assist in their ability to properly report and detect asbestos-related illnesses. Asbestos removal issues were also discussed, focusing on the region-wide development of waste management removal strategies.

The European Region seems to be very serious about combating asbestos exposure-related illnesses. Contact an asbestos exposure attorney today if you need help seeking compensation for injuries or illnesses you sustained as a result of exposure to asbestos.



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