Seminar on Asbestos Helsinki, 28-29 April 2007


The participants in the International Seminar on Asbestos organised by the Finnish NGO Terveysrintama (Health Front) 28 – 29 April in Helsinki, representing the UITBB (Trades Union International of Workers in the Construction, Wood and Building Materials Industries) as well as Construction workers’ unions from Australia, Portugal, Cyprus, Brazil, Denmark, France, Finland, health care professionals, associations of victims of asbestos, OH experts, etc. after two days of in-depth discussion adopted unanimously the following resolution:


Considering that:

  • It has been established both scientifically and practically that all forms of asbestos, including chrysotile, are human carcinogens which represent a lethal danger and a major burden for public health and the environment;
  • According to ILO an estimated over 100 000 people, – workers, relatives, civilians – die every year of diseases caused by exposure to asbestos and that the number of victims is likely to rise because of the continuing use of asbestos and due to the dangers connected with the rehabilitation work of the buildings constructed during the 60, 70 and 80, when huge quantities of asbestos based materials were used;
  • 90% of chrysotile asbestos are used in fibre-cement materials;

Recalling that according to WHO, the International Programme for Chemical Safety and the World Trade Organization there is no safe level of exposure to chrysotile asbestos and that the appropriate prevention measure is to completely prohibit the use of chrysotile asbestos;


The participants call, in conformity with the spirit of the resolution adopted at the 95th Session of the ILC of the ILO in 2006, upon governments, employers’ and workers’ organisations to take immediate measures aiming at prohibiting as quickly as possible the excavation, the production, the recycling and the use of all forms of asbestos as well as of products containing asbestos.


The participants note with satisfaction that thanks to efforts deployed in particular by trade unions, by associations of victims and health professionals, some 40 countries have adopted a ban on the production and use of asbestos and asbestos containing products and replaced asbestos by less dangerous substituting products.


These same countries allow the handling of asbestos only in connection with works of removal of asbestos, demolition, renovation and maintenance under strictly controlled conditions.


The participants request governments, multinationals and employers in general

  • To make the protection of workers and of the population against exposure to asbestos a priority.
  • To ratify and to implement the provision of the ILO Convention162 (1986), Safety in the use of Asbestos, to apply the provisions of the Recommendation 172 as a minimum level under which it is impossible to go. However the Convention 162 must not provide justification and cannot be considered as an encouragement to continue the use of asbestos.
  • To guarantee victims and the relatives of victims of asbestos related diseases adequate care, pre-retirement and a compensation corresponding to the level of prejudice.
  • To take a clear stand in favour of the elimination of all forms of asbestos and of asbestos containing materials. Countries must draw up national action plans to manage, control and eliminate asbestos from the labour and social spheres.
  • To intensify efforts in the field of research of new substituting products and of epidemiological studies on the impact of substituting products used today.
  • To implement simultaneously with the elimination of asbestos an industrial policy safeguarding the reemployment of all workers concerned.


The participants in the Seminar call upon national and international trade union organisations to actively promote a global ban on asbestos in all its forms in the construction industry and all other industrial branches, to promote legally binding regulations on asbestos related work in the field of demolition, conversion, renovation and maintenance.


The participants in the Seminar call upon national and international trade union organisations to act in order to obtain the recognition of the political and criminal liability of public authorities and of asbestos companies in matters related to the asbestos exposure of workers and of the population, because this is a precondition for efficient and comprehensive measures to be taken to stop the production and the marketing of asbestos and for the compensation of victims.


The protection of the health and life of workers and of the population in general against the dangers related to exposure to asbestos must be one of the priorities of the trade unions, of the employers’ organisations and of public authorities.