17.04.2018

European Commission follows up on workers' protection from cancer-causing chemicals

The European Commission is taking another important step to protect
workers in the European Union from workplace-related cancer as well as other health
problems.

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. 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.

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.

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.

Background

This Commission is committed to further strengthening workers' right to a high
level of protection of their health and safety at work. The European Pillar of
Social Rights, which was jointly proclaimed by the European Parliament, the
Council and the Commission at the Social Summit for Fair Jobs and Growth in
Gothenburg in November 2017, recognises that workers' right to a healthy, safe,
and well-adapted work environment is essential to the upward convergence
towards better working and living conditions in the EU. Protection of workers'
health, by continuously reducing exposures to carcinogenic and mutagenic
substances in the workplace, is a concrete action taken by the Juncker
Commission to deliver on this priority.

Data show that cancer is the first cause of work-related deaths. 52% of annual
work-related deaths are due to cancer, compared to 24% due to circulatory
illnesses and 2% due to injuries. Exposure to certain chemical agents at work
can cause cancer. While cancer is a complex disease and certain causal factors
are difficult to identify, it is clear that cancers caused by exposure to
chemical substances in the workplace can be prevented by reducing or
eliminating these exposures.

To ensure that workers are protected against such risks, in 2004, the EU
adopted the Carcinogens and Mutagens Directive 2004/37/EC (CMD). This Directive
sets out steps to be taken to eliminate or limit exposure to carcinogenic and
mutagenic chemical agents and, as such, to help prevent occupational cancers
and related diseases.

Scientific knowledge about carcinogenic or mutagenic chemicals is constantly
evolving and technological progress enables improvements in protection of
workers. To ensure that the mechanisms for protecting workers established in
the CMD are as effective as possible and that up-to-date preventative measures
are in place in all Member States, the Directive needs to be regularly revised.
For this reason, the Commission has supported a continuous process of updating
the CMD to keep abreast with the new scientific and technical developments,
taking account of Social Partners' and Member States' views.

Two previous legislative amendments were proposed by the Commission to the CMD,
in May 2016 and January 2017, together identified limit values to 21
carcinogens. The first amendment was adopted as a Directive (EU) 2017/2398 by
the co-legislators at the end of 2017. The second proposal for legislative
amendments is currently being discussed by legislators. In the EU, around 21
million workers are exposed to at least one of the chemical agents included in
the three proposed legislative amendments.


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


AplusA-online.de - Source: European Commission