30 Jan
health european union

Better protection of workers health: Agreement on carcinogens and mutagens at work (European Union)

The Romanian Presidency of the European Council and the European Parliament yesterdeay, 29 January, reached a provisional agreement to reduce the exposure of workers to five carcinogenic chemical agents – cadmium, beryllium, arsenic acid, formaldehyde and 4,4′-Methylene-bis(2-chloroaniline)(MOCA).

The agreement will now be submitted to the member states representatives in the Council of the EU for endorsement. When adopted, the directive will update the existing rules on the protection of workers from the risks related to exposure to carcinogens or mutagens at work (Directive 2004/37/EC).

“This agreement is a further step to protect millions of workers from the exposure to carcinogens. The directive, when adopted, will improve the working conditions for workers across the EU and prevent thousands of cases of ill-health at the workplace”, has said Marius-Constantin Budăi, Minister of Labour and Social Justice of Romania.

New limits

The provisional agreement sets new limits which are in line with new scientific and technical data and evidenced-based practices for measuring exposure levels at the workplace.

With regard to cadmium the Commission will assess after the entry into force of the directive the option of a further amendment to Directive 2004/37/EC which would add the combination of an airborne occupational exposure limit value with a biological limit value.

When adopted, the directive will allow member states to introduce at national level more stringent binding limit values and does not prevent them from applying additional measures, such as a biological limit value.

At the same time, the Commission will assess no later than the end of the second quarter 2020 the possibility to extend the scope of the Directive 2004/37/EC to include a list of hazardous drugs, including cytotoxic drugs which are carcinogenic or mutagenic.

Next steps

The Commission presented its proposal in April 2018. On 6 December 2018 the Council adopted its position which formed the basis for the negotiations with the European Parliament. The provisional agreement will now be examined by the Council’s Permanent Representatives Committee that needs to endorse it. The formal vote in both the Council and the European Parliament will follow at a later stage.

By: Estela Martín

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