Where European ships are recycled: Asian workers pay the ultimate price

Asian workers remove asbestos from ships Photo: Adam Cohn. Nine out of ten European ships end their lives on Southeast Asian tidal beaches recycled into scrap metals. Unprotected workers get poisoned and killed despite regulations supposed to protect life and environment. Three international conventions and one EU-law about recycling of ships aim to protect workers and nature. They don’t.

The hidden threat: Asbestos fibres in our drinking water

Design: Janni Kristensen/TV2 Nord

Although asbestos is now banned in 69 countries, it still lurks in our buildings, our landfills – and our water pipes. There is general acceptance that inhalation can be lethal; now scientists and campaigners are voicing increasing dismay about the potential risks of ingestion – swallowing the fibres. This experts fear would be part of a fourth wave of risks following the risks for miners, for manufacturing workers, and for construction workers and their families. Asbeter founder and CEO, Dr Inez Postema and Cornelis van der Burg, head of R&D, Asbeter, on a visit to Asbeter, Rotterdam. Photo: Katharine Quarmby

Take aways:

Water pipes made of asbestos cement release fibres that are lethal when inhaled.

EU to cut down asbestos exposure for workers to Dutch level

New EU-rules on asbestos are seen as a victory by members of the European Parliament who have demanded a general overhaul of EU’s asbestos policies. The occupational exposure limit will be set 10 times lower than today from 0.1 to 0.01 fibres per cm3 without a transition period. After maximum six years the limit will be further decreased to 0.002 fibres per cm3. This is in line with the existing limit in the Netherlands, the lowest in the EU, and close to the limit of 0.001 fibres demanded by Parliament. “This is a major step forward in the fight against this leading cause of occupational cancer,” MEP and rapporteur Veronique Trillet-Lenoir, (Renew Europe) said, after an agreement had been made with Council Tuesday afternoon.

EU-lawmakers pressed to act on 90,000 asbestos deaths

Commission waters down broad political initiative


Health experts, trade unions and a uniquely broad majority in the European Parliament has called for a pan-European strategy to register and remove asbestos, lower occupational exposure limits, recognise victims and more. Commission, the key EU-institution for framing new proposals has addressed the concerns under the headline “Towards an asbestos-free future”. The Commission suggests lowered exposure limits for workers, yet ten times higher than the Parliament’s demand. Contrary to experts’ opinions and death figures of 70 000 – 90 000, construction companies suggest the annual asbestos death toll for workers is 22 – based on a study issued by the Commission. The Commission refrains to comment on the extremely different readings of the study it has initiated and published.

The silent killer in buildings all over Europe

Could asbestos be even more deadly than previously thought? TAKE AWAYS

Asbestos is more lethal than previously known. New figures, recognized by EU-institutions show that 70 000 – 90 000 Europeans die of asbestos related cancer each year. To older working men, a known group of victims, are now added women, teachers, hospital personal, office workers, and all people exposed to asbestos in public building and private homes. The death rate is rising in countries which banned the use of asbestos 30-40 years ago due to demolition and renovation of asbestos that has never been removed.

Ingen dansk viden om Parkinsons fra bekæmpelsesmidler

Det franske forskningsprojekt Pestexpo undersøgte i efteråret 2021, hvordan pesticider trænger gennem beskyttelsesudstyr. Photo: © Ed Alcock/MYOP for Le Monde. Truslen fra bekæmpelsesmidler i det danske grundvand er vel beskrevet og debatteret. Risikoen for danske landmænd, landarbejdere og gartnere som arbejder med de omdiskuterede midler, er slet ikke kendt. Stol ikke på beskyttelsesmidler, advarer franske forskere.

Probing for a pesticides link to Parkinson’s disease

Only 30-40 percent of the farm workers were protection equipment in France. There is no data from other countries. Photo: © Ed Alcock/MYOP for Le Monde. Edited and first published by EUobserver on 17th of February 2022. Jean-Baptiste Lefoulon, a French farmer in Normandy, stands in boxer shorts in the middle of his farmyard.

Take aways

The European market for pesticides (plant protection products) is worth € 11b per year and equals 350 000 tons. 48 300 tons (13,8 percent) are believed to be illegal, counterfeited or substandard products. The hazards are unknown as authorities only test food sample with residues from single known and registered products, not the cocktail effect of different pesticides. Annual inspections coordinated by EU agency Europol has since 2015 discovered and seized 0,94 percent of the believed to be 48 300 tons spread each year. In six investigated countries all in all 17 seizures of illegal pesticides have been brought to court for the last five year, leading so far to one (1) conviction to jail and one major fine.

The perfect crime: Low risks, high returns, minimal sanctions

October 2019 on the Polish–Ukrainian border at Korczowa: An X-ray scan of a refrigerator truck reveals over 600 litres of a strange substance in its tanks. Firefighter pumped out illegal pesticides proved to have a highly toxic effect on water environment. Their net worth exceeded 50 000 Euro. The driver was sentenced a 700€ fine plus  loss of the truck. Photo: National Revenue Administration.

What can be done to stop illegal pesticides

Keep records

OECD (the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development) has adopted 105 recommendation to its 37 member countries on how to counter the illegal trade of pesticides. The recommendations call for records to keep track on trade, manufacturing, inspections and sale and more. Ask the Chinese

The Chinese Institute for the Control of Agrochemicals, Ministry of Agriculture (ICAMA) can be asked for documentation of exported pesticides, known as the ICAMA 1-pager document. Make the transporter responsible

Delivering companies should be demanded to know what they transport. Know Your Customer (KYC) is a strategy asked for by the producers’ association CropLife International.