Posted on June 10, 2015
On May 27th 2015, Amsterdam was the exciting scene of the first international conference of the European Asbestos Forum (EAF). The long held dream of our Charter Member and EAF founder, Dr. Yvonne Waterman, the EAF aims to improve networks and sharing asbestos knowledge across both borders and asbestos sectors.
All day, the motto ‘Sharing makes us stronger!’ resonated across the venue, gaining strength by the hour as the many visitors from over ten countries and three continents became visibly enthused by this concept. Flawlessly chaired by Hans van der Wart of Shield Group International, the conference proceeded at a fast pace.
The Opening Speech was provided by the Director General Work of the Ministry for Social Affairs and Employment, Marcelis Boereboom. He was followed by Wayne Williams, who represented the English IATP, Mark Wit and Linda Reinstein. Dr. Richard Lemen closed the morning session by giving a very varied, profound and impressive Keynote Speech – when he warned of the combined dangers of asbestos and tobacco, you could hear a pin drop.
In the afternoon, three simultaneous sessions were held to allow for a wide array of asbestos specialists. Sadly, Nicola Pondrano, who was to have spoken on the Italian fight against Eternit, was ill. But his colleagues in the session Asbestos & Labour, Arco Engelen, Lydia Charlier, Wayne Williams, Christian Lahnstein and Dilan Yesilyurt provided very interesting insights in the asbestos awareness problems faced on the work floor and in schools, and subsequently the problems encountered in the legal process and the insurance aspects. Lydia for instance pointed out the huge discrepancies in compensation between various countries for one and the same case.
During the session on Asbestos & Technological Developments, new innovations and technologies regarding asbestos were the main topic, with speeches provided by Ruud Janssen, Nick Garland, Tony Rich, Mark Winter, Joris Gribnau and Herm Zweerts. We learned about new removal techniques, comparative methods and legislations and the importance of a real estate asbestos register.
The third session related to European Policy & Raising Awareness, where Gonzalo Zufia, Barry Robson, Linda Reinstein, Prof. Gert van der Laan, Prof. Thomas Kraus and Prof. Nico van Zandwijk used different approaches to this subject. Prof. Kraus for instance showed that the incidence of asbestos related lung cancer is several times as high as the mesothelioma incidence, and yet these patients are very neglected from every angle.
The EAF’s special honour, the Dr. J. Stumphius Recognition Award, was awarded to Prof. Nico van Zandwijk, who spoke on his ground-breaking discovery of a new and hopeful treatment of mesothelioma. His research is truly equal to that of Nobel Prize winners. The Award, showing a glass plate supported by a bronze base, signifying a large burden carried by many people, was proudly sponsored by Shield Group International, also a very supportive Main Sponsor.
Since the conference, enthusiasm for the concept of building and improving the asbestos network has grown daily by leaps and bounds, as word of the EAF spreads. Many visitors admitted to being stunned by the diversity of methods, techniques and insights and the many possibilities that combining forces could provide for all. Indeed, many allowed it was the first time they even realised they had an insular approach to asbestos; and how much there was to be gained in saving lives, raising awareness, improving safety and health on the work floor etc. by sharing.
This conference is sure to have a follow-up in 2016! News on this as well as many of the presentations may soon be found regularly on www.europeanasbestosforum.org.
Yvonne Waterman Ph.D. LL.M., GBAN Charter Member for the Netherlands.