Will European insurers follow Australia by including mineral wool in the same category of exclusions as asbestos?

Australian insurers include mineral wool in the same category of exclusions as asbestos. The Australia-based One Underwriting company makes clear that under the category of asbestos, they also include “that group of man-made mineral fibres that comprises mineral wool, rockwool, glass fibre, ceramic fibres and superfine fibres.”

Other companies such as Pen Underwriting and Marsh have laid out similar policies, with mineral wool being included in the same category as asbestos.

Questions are now being raised as to whether European companies are doing the same, or if perhaps they should begin to. In addition, if the health risks of Man-made Vitreous Fibres (MMVF), more commonly known as mineral wool, are being recognised commercially as being comparable to those of asbestos, perhaps the European Union should also be developing policy to protect construction workers and homeowners from the health risks associated with mineral wool.

There are concerns that those working with mineral wool insulation, whether in their own homes or as part of their occupation in construction, could be at greater risk of Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD), a serious long-term illness which causes inflammation of the air passages and damage to the lung tissue, leading to the flow of air to be restricted.

Mineral wool essentially emerged as a replacement for asbestos, when asbestos was banned on health grounds. However, at the time when the asbestos industry collapsed, mineral wool had been classified by the World Health Organisation and the International Agency on the Research on Cancer (IARC) as carcinogenic and hazardous to humans.

The mineral wool industry reacted to this situation by altering the composition of their product, which then underwent further tests, and in 2002 was declassified as a carcinogen (although the EU still classifies certain mineral wool as a suspected cause of cancer). Indeed, asbestos is a silicate, and mineral wool are silicate-based. Questions are now being raised concerning the integrity of those second tests, which had been conducted in 1995 and this was the topic of a recent study.

The Australian insurance approach appears to more fairly reflect the health concerns over mineral wool and it seems appropriate the European insurers and Brussels policy-makers adopt a similar approach.

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Gary Cartwright

Gary Cartwright

Gary Cartwright is publishing editor and Brussels correspondent of EU Today.

An experienced journalist and author, he specialises in environment, energy, and defence.

He also has more than 10 years experience of working as a staff member in the EU institutions, working with political groups and MEPs in various policy areas.

In October 2021 POLITICO described Gary as "the busiest man in Brussels!"

He is a of member the Chartered Institute of Journalists, a professional association for journalists, the senior such body in the UK, and the oldest in the world having been founded in October 1884

Gary's most recent book WANTED MAN: THE STORY OF MUKHTAR ABLYAZOV: A Manual for Criminals on How to Avoid Punishment in the EU is currently available from Amazon


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