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Compromise solution Asbestos fund set up to support victims

A worker in protective gear clears asbestos from a Swiss building


A CHF100 million ($97 million) fund is to be created in Switzerland to offer support for victims of asbestos-related illnesses who are not eligible for accident insurance. The construction industry and insurers will voluntarily contribute to the fund that will run until 2025.

Around 120 people every year develop malignant tumours in Switzerland as a result of having breathed in carcinogenic asbestos fibres. A quarter of these victims cannot claim through accident insurance because their condition is not work related or they were self-employed. 

In some cases, people became ill from living near to a building that contained asbestos.

A round table of politicians, trade unions, industry groups and asbestos victim support organisations came up with the solution to financially support victims who fell ill after 2006. Some CHF30 million has already been pledged to the fund.

Interior Minister Alain Berset and former cabinet member Moritz Leuenberger announced the fund’s creation on Monday. Berset called it a “good compromise” solution to end a “sad chapter” in Switzerland’s industrial history. Leuenberger said he was “disappointed” that construction insurers had declined to take part in the fund.

Trade unions welcomed the creation of the fund, but warned that more funds would be needed after it runs out in 2025. They also called on insurers and industries that have not joined from the start to accept their “social responsibilities”.

Asbestos was commonly used by the building industry in Switzerland in the 1960s and 1970s, but was banned in 1989 when its health risks became obvious.

A private foundation will be set up to administer the fund, which will offer care services for asbestos victims, including psychological support. One-off payments will be made to the relatives of people who die from asbestos-related illnesses.

Funds will only be made available to people who are not seeking civil damages through the courts.

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