Existing European Union (EU) legislation does not sufficiently protect workers and the general public, said the European Economic and Social Committee (ESC), when it adopted an opinion on asbestos by 55 votes to 9, with 13 abstentions, according to the April 1999 issue of its CES info newsletter. There is ever overwhelming scientific proof of the harmful, and often fatal, effects of exposure to asbestos, said the ESC. Furthermore, as a point of principle, the ESC thinks that the EU should introduce a total ban on the first use of all asbestos. However, it recognizes that a ban, without exemption, is at present not a realistic political option. Therefore, the ESC recommends that, when the EU authorizes derogations, these should be limited to the utmost in both scope and time. All this suggests that closer collaboration with Member States is necessary for monitoring and controlling compliance with legislation. In any case, the ESC calls on the European Commission to put forward measures for reducing the risks to workers as soon as possible. These proposals should include: - Tightening of limit values for exposure; - Training, education and information for employers, workers and the general public (including young people); - Obligatory investigations of the presence of asbestos by the owners of buildings in case of demolition or maintenance; - Information campaigns on safer substitutes and active promotion of the use of these by various means; - Information campaigns on the risks inherent in the use of substitutes.