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Brussels to improve workers' protection against cancer-causing chemicals

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Brussels to improve workers' protection against cancer-causing chemicals

Oil refinery - Image by michaelmep on Pixabay

(BRUSSELS) - The EU Commission proposed a new revision of the Carcinogens and Mutagens Directive Tuesday, with new or revised limit values limiting workers' exposure to three important cancer-causing chemicals.

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.

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.

"In the backdrop of the major health crisis due to COVID-19, we will redouble our efforts to ensure that workers in Europe are protected," said Jobs Commissioner Nicolas Schmit: "We will look into concrete ways on how to achieve this via the future occupational safety and health strategic framework."

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).

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.

The 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.

Commission Proposal for the fourth revision of the Carcinogens and Mutagens Directive

Beating Cancer: improved protection 
for workers - background guide

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