Deal on better protecting EU workers from the risks of asbestos 

Press Releases 
  • Lowering the exposure to asbestos at work 
  • Measures will have to been taken when asbestos is detected 
  • More modern and sensitive technology to detect asbestos fibres 

The new rules on asbestos aim to protect EU workers from the risks of asbestos and to detect the presence of asbestos as early as possible.

Negotiators from Parliament and Council reached an agreement on Tuesday on the Asbestos at Work directive.

Lowering the level of exposure

The directive calls on employers to reduce exposure to asbestos fibres to the lowest possible level. The occupational exposure limit (OEL) will go from 0.1 to 0.01 fibres of asbestos per cm³ without a transition period.

After a maximum transition period of six years, member states will have to use a more modern and sensitive technology to detect fibres, namely electron microscopy. They will have to decrease the level to 0.002 fibres of asbestos per cm³ excluding thin fibres or to 0.01 fibres of asbestos per cm³ including thin fibres.

As there is no safe level of asbestos exposure, the new rules will also set out a list of ways to avoid exposure, such as the adequate use of individual protective and respiratory equipment, the safe cleaning of clothing, a decontamination procedure, and high quality training requirements for workers.

Next steps

Once both Parliament and Council formally adopt the rules, they will be published in the EU Official Journal and enter into force 20 days later.


Véronique Trillet-Lenoir (Renew, FR), rapporteur, said: “With this agreement, we are turning our ambitions into actions. It will enable all member states to strengthen the protection of workers against asbestos, by reducing the occupational exposure limit value, introducing more effective fibre detection methods and imposing stricter training requirements. This is a major step forward in the fight against this leading cause of occupational cancer.”

Dragoş Pîslaru (Renew, RO), the chair of the EMPL committee, said: “We have all been living at risk due to asbestos fibres that slowly shatter our health. At work, school, shopping, we are and have been exposed to their damaging effect. The EU is strongly committed to protect its workers and their health. Now, we can say that we created a piece of legislation that will impact for good both our and our children’s health for a lifetime. Asbestos will be strictly controlled due to the agreement that the EP and the Council reached today and our health and lungs will be safer.”


Asbestos is an extremely dangerous carcinogen, which affects various economic sectors, such as construction, renovation, and firefighting, where workers face a high risk of exposure. Asbestos fibres are by far the major cause of work-related cancer: 78% of occupational cancers recognised in the member states are related to exposure to asbestos.