Select Committee on Environment, Transport and Regional Affairs Minutes of Evidence

Memorandum from The Health and Safety Commission (EST 98H)


  1. At the oral evidence session on 23 June you asked Mr Hillier for an update on progress towards a ban on white asbestos. You will recall that Mr Hillier provided a note to you on 26 June following exchanges at the Select Committee. Mr Hillier has asked me to respond direct to yourself.

  2. On the 13 July the Department of Healths' independent Committee on Carcinogenicity (CoC) agreed with the conclusions of the Institute of Environmental Health (IEH) report. The CoC opinion, which is available via the internet,[3] concludes that:

    "The carcinogenic risks posed by PVA fibres, P-aramid fibres or cellulose fibres are likely to be less than that posed by chrysotile."

  3. The Health and Safety Commission and Ministers have welcomed the Opinion of the CoC. The Commission on the 21 July considered that the opinion was sufficient endorsement of the science that it should proceed to consider a draft consultative document proposing further restrictions on the importation, supply and use of white asbestos. The Health and Safety Executive have been asked to provide a draft consultative document for the Commission to consider when it next meets on 18 August. If the Commission approve the document then it might be expected to be published in September.

  4. In view of the enormous public interest aroused by the recent consultative document to strengthen worker protection asbestos legislation, the Commission has already agreed in principle that a three month consultation period would be appropriate.

  5. Subject to a smooth passage through consultation, The Commission would be in a position to advise Ministers on the outcome of consultation in early Janaury.

  6. The Health and Safety Commission issued a press statement following its meeting on 21 July.

Rob Andrews

27 July 1998

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