Van Geel’s asbestos ‘success’ is so much hot air

20 December 2005

Van Geel’s asbestos ‘success’ is so much hot air

SP Member of Parliament Krista van Velzen is astonished by the celebratory tone adopted by Secretary of State Pieter Van Geel in relation to his negotiations with asbestos corporation Eternit. In her opinion, the results of these negotiations are thoroughly disappointing. “The SP, with extensive parliamentary support, has argued for the costs of cleaning up asbestos-related pollution to fall on the company, but this subject turns out to have been shoved to one side. The reality is that Van Geel has come back empty-handed.”

If not quite literally empty-handed, all Mr Van Geel really brought back with him was a promise that future victims of asbestos in the environment would be financially compensated by the firm. “In practise Eternit has lost every court case brought by asbestos victims,” Ms Van Velzen points out. “Certainly it would be something if Eternit were to go over to immediate payments instead of fighting compensation claims in the courts, provided these amounted to full compensation. In the meantime the government should make advance payments against expected compensation, as already happens in the case of people who have worked in the asbestos factory rather than suffering contamination outside in the general environment.”

To date Van Geel is refusing to commit himself to this demand. On Tuesday evening Parliament voted in favour of an SP motion demanding such an extension of the rule governing advance payments.

Asbestos-contaminated paths will be cleaned up, but Van Geel has limited this operation to the areas of Harderwijk and Hof van Twente, despite the fact that a high level of asbestos contamination has also been confirmed in soil samples taken in the local authority district of Berkelland. Recently published research shows a direct link between the occurrence of asbestos in the environment and the rate of asbestos-related disease. “The Secretary of State is treating the inhabitants of Berkelland and other areas which have to cope with asbestos contamination with total contempt,” Ms Van Velzen concluded.

You are here