Krista van Velzen: ‘Antilles must be persuaded to tackle problem of asbestos’

27 May 2006

Krista van Velzen: ‘Antilles must be persuaded to tackle problem of asbestos’

SP Member of Parliament Krista van Velzen has asked Secretary of State for the Environment Pieter van Geel to do all in his power to bring to an end any use of life-threatening asbestos in the Antilles, a group of Caribbean islands which, though self-governing, remains part of the Kingdom of the Netherlands. In the Netherlands proper, 800 people die every year from asbestos-related diseases. Concern over this has led to new legislation, including an EU-wide ban on production and use of any materials containing asbestos, but in the Antilles these measures do not apply and the carcinogenic material remains on general sale.

Krista van VelzenThe Secretary of State must try to bring pressure to bear for a ban while at the same time making information available to the Antilles’ authorities and people. It would also be of benefit if victims of asbestos in the Antilles could take legal action against the corporations responsible for its distribution, as has for some time been the case in the Netherlands. “I can’t believe that Mr Van Geel does not share my concern about the situation in the Antilles, and I would like to discuss this with him in a parliamentary debate,” said Ms Van Velzen. “If this doesn’t bring the desired results, then I will have to try to work directly with parliamentarians in the Antilles.”

Yvette Raveneau, chair of the environmentalist group Amigu di Tera on Curaçao, one of the islands of the Antilles, has welcomed the SP’s concern. “Asbestos is very widely used on Curaçao,” she said. “There is hardly a house which doesn’t have an asbestos roof.” Ms Raveneau also confirmed that there is absolutely no regulation of its use, and not a single law relating to working with toxic materials. A law has been promised which would forbid the import of asbestos, and according to environmentalists it is something of a breakthrough to see the matter receiving some attention. Raveneau, however, expects to see the proposal run into problems from importers, though she points out that perfectly satisfactory alternatives are available which do not cause cancer.

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