EU action against  rare diseases
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Though individual rare diseases (RDs) affect less than five in every 10,000 people, the aggregate number of individuals suffering from a rare disease is estimated to be nearly 400 million worldwide. The lack of efficient …

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Home » Cancer, EU Health, Health

European Commission takes action to protect workers against cancer

Submitted by on 10 Apr 2018 – 11:09

The European Commission has taken yet another important step to protect workers in the European Union from workplace-related cancer as well as other health problems. The latest legislative proposal could improve working conditions for over 1,000,000 EU workers and prevent over 22,000 cases of work-related illness.

Under the new legislation, 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.

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).

300100_13The 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.