(Revision of Directive 2009/148/EC)
Asbestos is a key occupational carcinogenic agent which has been used worldwide for decades in buildings. Although this substance is banned in the EU since 2005, there is a substantial legacy problem due to its presence in many older buildings that are likely to be renovated, adapted or demolished over the coming years, especially in the context of the EU Green Deal’s Renovation Wave.
Indeed, these works present a potential risk that workers will be exposed to asbestos, and it is important that it is carried out in a controlled way by suitably trained workers and under the proper supervision of their employers.
In this context, the European Commission considers that improved protection of workers exposed to asbestos will be important. Indeed, occupational exposure limit values (OEL) on asbestos play an important role in the renovation of buildings.
According to Directive 2009/148/EC the current binding OEL for asbestos at EU level is 0.1 fibres/cm³ as an eight-hour time-weighted average (TWA). The European Commission considers that the existing OEL should be amended in order to take account of the most recent knowledge, scientific development and technical progress.
This is why, in a proposal published on 28 September 2022, the European Commission suggested lowering the existing OEL by 10 times, to 0.01 fibres/cm3. In a Communication, the European Commission also proposed a series of complementary measures to be taken (e.g. mandatory screening of buildings, better waste treatment, guidance, financial support and an awareness-raising campaign).
Knowing that most EU Member States have already implemented strict measures in this field, FIEC was worried that a further lowering of the OEL at EU level will become unrealistic for construction companies to comply with.
The Council adopted its General Approach in December 2022 and the European Parliament adopted its report in April 2023. Then, they reached a political agreement in trilogue in June 2023.
This political agreement goes far beyond the current applicable EU rules:
- A new maximum OEL is set at 0.01 fibres/cm³ without transition period.
- After 6 years, Member States will have to upgrade their measurement methodology from phase-contrast microscopy to electron microscopy.
By then, they will have to choose between 2 options:
o Measure thin asbestos fibres, with an OEL at 0.01 f/cm³; or
o Not to measure thin asbestos fibres with an OEL at 0.002 f/cm³.