Health experts have thrown their weight behind calls for awareness-raising programmes and better product labelling for potentially hazardous material.
The experts, meeting in Brussels for a high-level conference on lung cancer, highlight the “usefulness” of such campaigning in order to make the public better informed.
Medical oncologist Ioannis Boukovinas, President of Hellenic Society of Medical Oncology, said, “I would say that, generally, awareness raising and adequate labelling is logical.”
His comments were echoed by Deepak Khanna, Senior Vice President and Regional President Oncology for Europe, Middle East, Africa and Canada, MSD, who agreed that satisfactory product labelling “is always useful.”
They were asked to comment on calls by health and safety campaigners for improved labelling and awareness-raising initiatives for a building material, Man-Made Vitreous Fibres (MMVF), or mineral wool at it is also called, which is often used in the building trade.
Some concerns have been raised about the product which, in the past, was classified by the World Health Organization (WHO) and International Agency on the Research on Cancer as carcinogenic and hazardous to humans. The material has since been “declassified.”
Even so, there are currently calls for the European Chemicals Agency (ECA), an EU agency based in Helsinki, Finland to carry out retesting on the product as sold. Members of the European Parliament are being urged to push for EU-wide health and safety legislation and for the European Commission to introduce adequate product labelling.
Merel Hennink, Patient Advocate and Ambassador of Lung Cancer Europe, also told this website that, if any health risks were proven and substantiated, it was up to policymakers at EU level to legislate accordingly.
Each of the experts were in Brussels for the presentation of The Economist Intelligence Unit European Lung Cancer Study at the city’s press club. Lung cancer is Europe’s biggest cancer killer and the Economist Intelligence Unit has made a comparative analysis of lung cancer policies across Europe.
The experts each emphasised that they were speaking generally as they were not aware of Man-Made Vitreous Fibres (MMVF), nor of any possible risk to health. They will also attend the European Cancer Forum in Brussels on 28 January.
Mineral wool is a type of thermal insulation made from rocks and minerals. After asbestos was banned in most countries in the 1990s it effectively emerged as the replacement material but major doubts persist on its use for building insulation. One ongoing problem is that little is known about any possible health risks of MMVF including those in the construction industry as well as the general public.
EU-wide legislation to provide improved protection for workers who may be exposed to the substance and more prominent labelling on the product are being demanded by safety campaign groups.
Compulsory protective clothing to protect lungs and skin are among the measures also being demanded as well as greatly increased education for workers about the potential health hazards of mineral wool.
Leading lung health expert, Dr Marjoleine Drent is among those pressing for action. She has repeatedly voiced her concerns, saying, “In the past we did not know asbestos was very dangerous. The results of the effects of fibres in glass wool and mineral wool are only being seen right now, so we must deal with it carefully.The point is that these substances are harmful, but people do not realise it.”