Asbestos exposure: teachers deserve more protection!


Today, 6 February 2023, is a key date to advance the fight against asbestos in education institutions as the EMPL Committee of the European Parliament is to discuss the report to revise Directive 2009/148/EC on the protection of workers from the risks related to exposure to asbestos at work. 

While ETUCE welcomes that the EU Parliament has improved the text proposed by the European Commission, we regret that the current report fails to adequately protect all workers, and teachers in particular, exposed to asbestos. in education institutions across Europe. Therefore, we call on the European Parliament to address the need for further protection of all categories of workers, including teachers, academics, and other education personnel who are among the main victims of exposure to these carcinogenic substances.

Commenting on the report, Susan Flocken, European Director of ETUCE, stated: ‘We are glad that the revision of the asbestos Directive is finally advancing. However, the current legislative text provides insufficient protection to teachers and students who daily undergo background exposure to asbestos in educational institutions across Europe. As the representative of millions of teachers in Europe, we urge the European Parliament to include all workers exposed to asbestos in the report. We remind the European parliament that a safe and healthy working environment is a fundamental principle and right, no worker excluded.’

ETUCE and other trade unions warn decision makers that the report on asbestos supports a ten-time higher limit than the one advised by scientific experts and the trade union movement, (0,01 fibres/cm3 as opposed to the 0,001 fibres/cm3) which is a major shift from earlier planned regulation voted by the EU Parliament itself with a large majority in 2021. For this reason, ETUCE is joining forces with the European Trade Union Confederation (ETUC) and European Trade Union Federations to call on the EU Parliament not to disregard its decision to lower the occupational exposure limit of asbestos to 0,001 fibres/cm3. Ensuring adequate exposure limit of asbestos is a crucial precondition to a safe and healthy working environment, a priority of ETUCE.

Indeed, our survey carried out among education trade unions reveals that even today in Europe, there are educational institutions that are not asbestos-free, posing a hazard to teachers’ and students’ health. In France, according to national ministerial data, on average, 75% of buildings in secondary education contain asbestos. In Italy, up to 50 000 education workers and 360 000 students in almost 3 000 educational institutions are targeted with the presence of asbestos. In the German capital Berlin, every third school is contaminated with asbestos, while there is no reliable data collected on asbestos-related risks in many federal states of Germany. In the United Kingdom, since 1980, more than 400 teachers have died from mesothelioma, around 300 of asbestos-related death registered since 2001, which shows a worsening trend.

In other European countries, while the presence of asbestos in education institutions is widely known, data on the presence of asbestos is either not officially collected or not shared with education workers and education trade unions. In this view, ETUCE welcomes the new initiative of the European Commission for an upcoming proposal on asbestos screening, monitoring and registering. On this issue, tomorrow, 7 February, the ETUCE Bureau will discuss an ETUCE position to ensure comprehensive and effective protection of education workers across Europe.  

ETUCE will continue to make efforts to ensure school buildings are free from asbestos as it is a crucial issue in ensuring safe and healthy working environments in education. 


ETUCE Position on asbestos screening, monitoring, and registering