European Trade Union Institute, ETUI.

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Getting to a global ban

Outside the EU, asbestos is anything but history. Europeans bear a special responsibility in the battle for a global asbestos ban, because in most cases it was European businesses that developed asbestos production and use.

The asbestos mines of Brazil, South Africa, Zimbabwe, Quebec and many other countries were created with European capital. The profits were returned to Europe, leaving behind deaths and an environmental disaster. The Turner and Newall and Etex-Eternit groups exemplify the all-pervasiveness of European capital in the asbestos production and using industries. Even today, many European multinationals apply double standards, operating asbestos-free in Europe but still using asbestos elsewhere in the world.

Waste management is another way of exporting the risks of death to developing countries. Ships riddled with asbestos and other toxic substances are commonly sent to Asia to be broken up in appalling conditions.

Solidarity and action by the European trade union movement are therefore key in the coming battles to get a world ban on asbestos.