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European Asbestos Forum 2019

A quick flight to Amsterdam is enough to do an asbestos world tour. Or at least to get a great overview of what’s happening in the asbestos world industry. We will try to make a quick recap of the European Asbestos Forum, 14-15 September.


It started with the must-see award-winning film ‘Breathless’ by Maarten Schmidt. It recounted the legacy of Belgium, linked with the “magic material” and Eternit. Asbestos-containing materials production started a few generations ago in Belgium till asbestos regulations came in 1998. Since then, the production & consumption simply swap to India, where Eternit set up 5 factories and the Indian consumption quadrupled between 1997 and 2012. The past of Belgium is closely linked to the present time of India.

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It underlines that a total asbestos ban occurred only in 66 countries around the world, which is great but not enough you will say. The billions dollar industry is leading by producer countries – Russia (50% of the worldwide production), Kazakhstan, China and Brazil to name a few – and asbestos products are manufactured in low-incomes countries with low health & safety standards. In the meantime, Russia producers stamp their asbestos packages with Trump’s face under the slogan “Approved by Donald Trump, 45th president of the United States”.

As part of the industry, we need to collaborate and raise our voices to avoid this situation in the future. The No Time To Loose asbestos awareness campaign launched by the Institute of Occupational Safety and Health (IOSH) is one of the many great initiatives we saw in this sense. 

Even if the country we live in did ban asbestos and manage in-situ asbestos, the fight will last, at least for few more decades…

Asbestos in talc 

Fighting for asbestos victims is what Brendan J. Tully does every day in the US as a trial lawyer. But how victims have been exposed to asbestos? Were they directly imply in the asbestos industry? or indirectly? Were they unaware DIY renovators working with in-situ asbestos products?

None of all. Brendan J. Tully is fighting for recognition of contaminated talc cases where victims are diagnosed with an asbestos-related disease without knowing they have been exposed almost every day. The exposure used to occur while they were doing their make up or taking care of their babies with contaminated talc products.

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Nowadays, potentially contaminated talc products from many brands are on the international market, even in countries which have banned asbestos for many years. And the asbestos exposure by using those products may be worse than we thought.

Air monitoring analytical methods 

But how to detect asbestos in talc if the product itself only contains a trace of asbestos? Sean Fitzgerald and David de Vreede are hardly working on finding the best analytical methods which will use the transmission electron microscopy – TEM. The next step is to create an international analytical standard to enable us to tackle the matter before any products go in-store.

Speaking about standard and uniformity highlights differences between countries while managing asbestos in-situ and assessing the risk associated. Simply have a look to air monitoring analytical methods. You will find various way of doing it. France is counting WHO fibres and thin asbestos fibres (TAF) using the TEM, UK is using the phase-contrast microscopy (PCM) which restricts the counting to the WHO fibres. Finally, Germany is using the scanning electron microscopy. And how do you express those results? Fibres per litre? Millilitre? Cubic meter?

Sharing those insights with worldwide colleagues makes us stronger as Yvonne Waterman, founder and director of the EAF foundation, loved to say. Furthermore, smart innovative could spin-off this type of event and already great ones exist.

Asbestos & innovation 

The automated PCM fibre counting thanks to Artificial Intelligence proves itself. Two up and running products were shown, one by xRapid Group and the other one by Frontier Microscopy, which came from Australia to close the loop of our world tour.

Innovation and asbestos industry even help us to make our environment safer but also greener. Asbetter acids is reusing tons of acid wastes generated by other industrials to recycle landfilling tones of asbestos cement. A construction pilot will take shape in 2020 and receive 8,000 tons of asbestos cement each year.

On another angle, Flanders government and Sven de Mulder (OVAM) lead a project that aims to reduce the presence of asbestos in the northern part of Belgium. This ambitious project targets to remove all accessible asbestos in bad condition for 2040 in Flanders. It is the opportunity for them to combine their resources with other governments that are renovating buildings to meet the 2030 EU climate and energy target: at least 32,5% improvement in energy efficiency (from 1990 levels).

In a nutshell, challenges, opportunities, innovations… Our industry will continue to move forward, to be quite exciting and keep our environment safer. 

Looking forward to the next European Asbestos Forum!

Image Rights :

[1]: Quartz, One Russian company seems thrilled with Trump’s move on asbestos, Zoë Schlanger, viewed 07 January 2020, <>.

[2]: The expert institute, Cosmetic talc products & asbestos contamination: A new angle of litigation, Anjelica Cappellino, viewed 07 January 2020, <>.