The European Council and MEPs have agreed on a new deal to better protect workers from exposure to carcinogenic and mutagenic substances. Under the new agreement, diesel fumes will be added to the list of harmful substances.
The exposure limit will be set at 0.05 mg/m³ of elemental carbon from all diesel engines, without distinguishing between sources of diesel emissions.
The negotiators also agreed on the European Commission proposal to set the exposure limit values (maximum amount of substance allowed in workplace air) and/or skin notations (possibility of significantly absorbing substance through the skin) for five additional carcinogens:
- trichloroethylene, 4,4-methylenedianiline, epichlorohydrine, ethylene dibromide and ethylene dichloride.
Rapporteur Claude Roli said the agreement was a successful outcome for the region, which was the result of months of hard negotiation.
“In the European Union, more than 12 million workers are exposed occupationally to diesel engine exhaust emissions. This second revision of the directive gives a clear signal: monitoring occupational exposure to more and more harmful substances substantially strengthens workers’ protection.”
“We need to constantly monitor this. Cancer is the leading cause of work-related death in the E.U. It is unacceptable that workers lose their lives while trying to earn a living.”
Employment Committee Chair, Marita Ulvskog, said the EU should be proud of this agreement, which “would prevent more than 100,000 deaths caused by cancer over the next 50 years.”
53% of occupational deaths across the region are attributed to cancer. This is significantly higher than the 28% for circulatory diseases, and the 6% for respiratory diseases.
And while the majority of EU member countries have national exposure limits for many cancer-causing chemicals, these can vary greatly across the EU. The Commission says this results in a system where not all workers have equal protection and businesses are not operating on a level playing field.
The UK’s reaction towards this new limit will largely depend on its future relationship with the EU post Brexit.