Banning asbestos


In 1991, the European Union banned five of the six varieties of asbestos in existence, and made the use of the sixth, chrysotile or white asbestos, illegal in the case of 16 groups of products. In 1996, the EU has decided to prohibit other uses of the last type and thus banned asbestos in all its guises from 2005 at the latest. In 1999, a ban on white asbestos was already in place in nine of the 15 EU member states. Following the EU lead, Brazil announced it would phase out white asbestos use.

The European Commission Asbestos Directive (Council Directive 87/217/EEC on the prevention and reduction of environmental pollution by asbestos) provides that Member States shall ensure that the demolition of buildings, structures and installations containing asbestos and the removal therefrom of asbestos or materials containing asbestos involving the release of asbestos fibres or dust do not cause significant asbestos environmental pollution; to that end they shall satisfy themselves that the plan of work provided for in Article 12 of Directive 83/477/EEC (a separate directive focusing on worker health and safety) prescribes the introduction of all the necessary preventive measures to this end. The need to address significant asbestos environmental pollution under Article 7 implies protecting not only workers but also the wider public.


According to a 1999 report, the European Union planned to re-examine a 1983 directive regulating the handling of asbestos to be found at the workplace. The aim is to do more to protect those who must remove it, as well as those who repair or maintain buildings containing asbestos.

Counter Claim:

The fact is that reliable substitutes can now be found for all uses of chrysotile except one. The exception, and it is a very limited one, is the diaphragm used for electrolysis in certain chlorine plants. But since these diaphragms are used in a closed system on-site, the risk to health and to the environment is very small. Hence its exemption from the EU's decision banning the use of white asbestos. Even so, the derogation will be re-examined in 2003.

Type Classification:
E: Emanations of other strategies