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Sinn Féin MEP addresses European Parliament press conference on dangers of asbestos

27 April, 2006

Sinn Féin MEP Bairbre de Brún has today participated in a press conference highlighting the dangers of asbestos across the EU, on the eve of International Workers' Memorial Day (28th April). The press conference to launch the report 'ASBESTOS: the human cost of corporate greed' took place in the European Parliament in Brussels and was organised by MEPs from the European United Left/Nordic Green Left group (GUE/NGL).

Speaking today Ms de Brún said:

"Today's press conference was aptly organised on the eve of International Workers' Memorial day to launch the publication 'ASBESTOS: the human cost of corporate greed'. It reports on the situation in a wide range of countries and draws on testimony given at a conference in the European parliament in September 2005.

"According to recent research in Britain, mesothelioma (a cancerous tumour in the lung caused by asbestos) will reach epidemic proportions by 2015, with more than 8,000 people expected to die each year in Europe from 2015 onwards. In Ireland, according to figures from Queen's University Belfast's Health and Social Care Unit, published in the Journal of Public Heath Medicine, 527 asbestos related deaths were recorded in the North of Ireland between the years 1985-1994; 88% of these were men and the deaths were clustered around the Belfast estuary, the site of the city's shipbuilding industry.

"Asbestos remains a silent killer right across the European Union. The eradication of this substance must be a priority for both member states and the European Commission and Parliament. Buildings such as schools and other public amenities must be an immediate priority. It is clear that much work still needs to be done if we are to tackle the issue of asbestos effectively and safely. Whilst new cases continue to emerge, we must work to dispel the myth that asbestos associated illness is a 'disease of the past'. There is an onus upon government and the business sector to support those who have suffered as a result of asbestos related illness, including sufferers, carers and families of the bereaved.

"It is clear that we need strong implementation of the European ban on the use of asbestos and EU wide monitoring of where asbestos material is present in homes, on farms and public buildings. Continued monitoring of the health of workers in such buildings and EU wide action to deal with environmental and work related asbestos exposure is also required." ENDS

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