Each year, about 120,000 work-related cancer cases occur as a result of exposure to carcinogens at work in the EU, leading to approximately 80,000 fatalities annually. To improve workers' protection against cancer, the Commission has proposed today to further limit their exposure to cancer-causing chemicals.
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This fourth revision of the Carcinogens and Mutagens Directive sets new or revised limit values for three important substances: acrylonitrile, nickel compounds and benzene. Estimates show that more than 1.1 million workers in a wide range of sectors will benefit from improved protection thanks to the new rules. Today's proposal is the first initiative of the Commission's commitment to fight cancer under the upcoming Europe's Beating Cancer Plan.
Three new or revised limit values
The Carcinogens and Mutagens Directive is regularly updated in line with new scientific evidence and technical data. Three previous updates have addressed workers' exposure to 26 chemicals. Today's proposal adds new or revised occupational exposure limits for the following substances:
- Acrylonitrile (new limit)
- Nickel compounds (new limit)
- Benzene (limit revised downwards)
Benefits for workers and companies
Introducing new or revised occupational exposure limits for acrylonitrile, nickel compounds and benzene will have clear benefits for workers. Work-related cases of cancer and other serious illnesses will be prevented, improving health and quality of life.
The proposal will also benefit companies by reducing costs caused by work-related ill health and cancer, such as absences and insurance payments.
Development of the proposal and next steps
This initiative has been developed in close collaboration with scientists, and with representatives of workers, employers, and EU Member States. Social partners (trade unions and employers' organisations) were also involved through a two-phase consultation.
The Commission's proposal will now be negotiated by the European Parliament and the Council.