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EU Commission means to keep asbestos flowing into Europe
The Commission got Member States to approve the draft of the new Annex XVII to the REACH Chemicals Regulation on 20 February. One provision of it relates to asbestos. The Commission will let electrolysis plants that already used asbestos diaphragm cells keep on using asbestos. The derogation applies to six chemical factories in Germany, Poland, Sweden and Bulgaria. There will be no time limit on it, even though asbestos-free alternatives exist and are used by the other firms. The let-out was won after lobbying by the multinationals Dow Chemical and Solvay gained backing from DG Enterprise and various governments.

A provision of Annex XVII also allows asbestos-containing articles to be put on the market under rules that can vary from one country to the next.

The ball is now in the European Parliament's court. It has six months in which to pass a resolution throwing the text out. The European Trade Union Confederation has called for a halt to imports of asbestos and asbestos-containing articles into the European Union (EU). It argues that the Commission’s position clashes with the EU’s support for a global asbestos ban. An alternative put up by the French, Belgian, Dutch and Italian governments set a specific deadline for a blanket ban on asbestos in Europe.

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