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EU Action to Tackle Work-Related Cancer

The European Parliament’s Employment Committee has voted in new EU rules to protect workers from carcinogens and mutagens in the workplace.
 
The legislation has apparently already been informally agreed with EU Ministers and sets EU-wide rules to eliminate and reduce all carcinogens and mutagens in workplaces.
 
Employers will have to assess the risk of exposure for workers and take preventive measures, which should help reduce the number of work-related cancers deaths in the EU.
 
The new rules include a lower “occupational exposure limit”, i.e. a maximum quantity of harmful substances that workers can be exposed to, for:
 
  • chromium VI, used in textile dyes, paints and leather tanning materials and generated during the casting, welding or cutting of stainless steel
  • hardwood dust, produced, for instance, by cutting or pulverising wood
  • vinyl chloride monomer, mainly used to produce PVC
The changes are very much needed, because 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. The World Health Organisation estimates that every tenth lung cancer death is closely related to workplace risks.
 
Plans are also in place to assess the possibility of including reprotoxic substances - those having effects on sexual function and fertility - by the first quarter of 2019.
 

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