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Brussels proposes new action against carcinogins at the workplace

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Brussels proposes new action against carcinogins at the workplace

Workplace safety

(BRUSSELS) - The European Commission proposed new measures Thursday to limit workers' exposure to five cancer-causing chemicals, as well as other health problems.

The Commission proposes to limit workers' exposure to the 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 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.

Putting in place effective measures to prevent high exposures to the five substances and groups of substances under consideration will have a positive impact, even much broader than cancer prevention alone. Introducing these exposure limit values will not only lead to fewer cases of work-related cancer, but also limit other important health problems caused by carcinogenic and mutagenic substances. For example, exposure to beryllium, in addition to lung cancer, also causes incurable chronic beryllium disease.

European limit values also promote consistency by contributing to a 'level playing field' for all businesses and a clear and common objective for employers, workers and enforcement authorities. The proposal therefore leads to a more efficient system of workers' health protection and improved fairness in the single market.

The proposal is based on scientific evidence and follows broad discussions with relevant stakeholders, in particular employers, workers and Member States' representatives.

Commission MEMO: Commission follows up on workers' protection from cancer-causing chemicals: frequently asked questions on the third revision of the Carcinogens and Mutagens Directive


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