Carefully managing our asbestos past

 
We cannot undo the past and we regret that people become ill due to asbestos exposure. To support people impacted by asbestos-related illnesses, we established a mandatory policy that enables our businesses to vigilantly manage their pasts and safeguard the future.
 

One policy, 4 principles

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Compensate victims

We ensure that people who become ill as a result of the pre-ban use of asbestos in Etex factories receive fair financial compensation.

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Prevent exposure

We continuously monitor our facilities for the presence of airborne asbestos fibres and carefully manage buildings and landfills.

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Support research

We support and contribute to medical and scientific research into asbestos-related diseases, their management and the development of better treatments.

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Manage landfills

We are taking the necessary measures to professionally manage existing landfills and eliminate the possibility of exposure. These sites are monitored on a regular basis to demonstrate the effectiveness of the implementation of our policies.

 

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About asbestos

Asbestos is a natural mineral. It can be found in many locations around the world. In the 20th century this material was extensively used by the industry. Its inherent resistance to fire and mechanical and chemical aggression and its tensile strength, insulation properties, and affordability made it a coveted material.

This explains why it was used in numerous applications in many industries: construction, chemical, home appliance, shipbuilding, and automotive. Applications included insulation of buildings, fire protection (trains, buses, buildings), heat protection in industrial processes, domestic appliances (e.g. hair dryers and toasters), petrochemical industry, auto motive industry (brakes, clutches), water and wine filters and fire-resistant clothing.

The use of asbestos was widespread. According to scientific research, about 25 per cent of active males in European cities were exposed to asbestos at work in the 1950s and 60s.

 

Why it took so long to assess the risks

It did take many years to fully understand the health risks associated with asbestos exposure. This was partly due to the long latency periods of the asbestos related diseases. The risks linked to exposure depend on many factors: 

• the type of asbestos (white, brown, blue),
• the way of exposure (only inhaling constitutes a risk),
• the dose or cumulative exposure,
• and, most importantly, the time elapsed since the exposure.

As a result, the risks have long been underestimated by governments, the medical world, and the industry alike.

Taking action to protect health

In line with the evolution of scientific knowledge and legislation, Etex companies took a series of measures to reduce their workers’ exposure to asbestos and comply with recommended exposure limits.

For example, dust extraction mechanisms were installed, personal protection equipment such as masks were provided, blue asbestos was banned from production and dry processes were abandoned in favour of wet ones. This considerably reduced dust and asbestos exposure levels in our factories.

However, due to the long latency period of asbestos-related diseases—45 years on average for mesothelioma, for example—the mineral’s harmful efects will continue to appear for many years.

 

Etex policy

After having reduced the exposure levels to a minimum, all Etex companies eventually banned the use of asbestos from their production processes worldwide. While we cannot undo what happened in the past, we have instigated a mandatory policy for all our companies to assist asbestos victims.

In the course of 2013, we strengthened the policy for two of the pillars of our asbestos approach: prevent exposure and manage landfills. Under this policy, Etex carefully monitors the situation in former landfills and plants where asbestos was used in the past. The asbestos containing materials are inventoried and their condition is assessed. An action plan ensures employees, visitors, and neighbours are not exposed. The specialist we appointed in 2012 sees to it that these principles are strictly observed by all Etex companies. Throughout 2013, we continued an awareness and training programme for the managers of the companies involved, to ensure compliance with our four principles of our asbestos policy.

 

Etex donated a total of 6 million euro to the cancer research foundation Stichting tegen Kanker between 2012 and 2020.

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