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Commission takes action to better protect workers against cancer-causing chemicals

05/04/2018
Commission takes action to better protect workers against cancer-causing chemicals © Ridvan Arda / Shutterstock

The Commission proposes to limit workers' exposure to five cancer-causing chemicals, in addition to the 21 substances that have already been limited or proposed to be limited since the beginning of this mandate. Estimates show that today's proposal would improve working conditions for over 1,000,000 EU workers and prevent over 22,000 cases of work-related illness.

The proposed changes intend to limit exposure to five cancer-causing substances, in addition to the 21 substances that are already covered or have been proposed. In so doing, the Commission is pursuing its ongoing efforts to improve continuously the protection of workers from harmful chemicals in order to prevent further cases of workplace-related cancer as well as other health problems.

Commissioner for Employment, Social Affairs, Skills and Labour Mobility, Marianne Thyssen, said: "Today, the Commission has taken another important step towards fighting work-related cancer and other relevant health problems on the work floor. We propose to limit workers' exposure to five additional cancer-causing chemicals. This will improve protection for over 1 million workers in Europe and help create a healthier and safer workplace, which is a core principle of the European Pillar of Social Rights."

The Commission proposes to include new exposure limit values for five chemicals in the Carcinogens and Mutagens Directive. These limit values set a maximum concentration for the presence of a cancer-causing chemical in the workplace air. The following five carcinogens of high relevance for the protection of workers have been selected:

  • Cadmium and its inorganic compounds;
  • Beryllium and inorganic beryllium compounds;
  • Arsenic acid and its salts, as well as inorganic arsenic compounds;
  • Formaldehyde;
  • 4,4'-Methylene-bis(2-chloroaniline) (MOCA).

The first three carcinogens listed above are extensively used in sectors as cadmium production and refining, nickel-cadmium battery manufacture, mechanical plating, zinc and copper smelting, foundries, glass, laboratories, electronics, chemicals, construction, healthcare, plastics and recycling.