03.11.2017 change 06.11.2017

The European Parliament has expanded the list of carcinogens

The European Parliament on Wednesday added 11 new substances to the list of substances that cause cancer. According to the EP, the aim of the list is to help save up to 100,000 lives in the next 50 years.

Regulations specify the maximum allowable levels of carcinogenic or mutagenic chemicals in the workplace air. Thresholds are expected to contribute to a significant reduction in the number of workers suffering from cancer. Usually the limits are expressed in milligrams per cubic meter of air.

Among the new substances that have been added to the list are: acrylamide, vinyl bromide, ethylene oxide, hydrazine, refractory ceramic fibres and silica dust.

According to the EP, persons particularly exposed to these substances are workers in the construction, chemical, wood and textile sectors. Employers will need to identify and assess hazards for workers who are exposed to these substances and take preventive measures.

The Wednesday decision also revises exposure limits for two substances already on the list - dusts produced by cutting or pulverising wood and vinyl chloride monomer used to produce PVC.

"I am incredibly happy that the EU has finally revised the carcinogens and mutagens directive. It took over ten years of pushing to get a more ambitious agenda. Workers need to know they are protected. (...) Cancer is the biggest workplace killer and we are going to continue to fight it" - said rapporteur Marita Ulvskog (S&D, SV).

The directive was approved by 540 votes to 6 against, with 119 abstentions. Once endorsed by the European Council, the new rules will be published in the EU Official Journal and enter into force 20 days after publication.

The EP reports that cancer is the leading cause of work-related deaths in the EU. Annually, 53% of occupational deaths are attributed to cancer, compared with 28% for circulatory diseases and 6% for respiratory ones. The most common types of occupational cancer are lung cancer, mesothelioma (caused by exposure to asbestos particles) and bladder cancer.

Łukasz Osiński (PAP)

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