More stringent regulations for occupational exposure to hazardous substances


The European Parliament has imposed new regulations to better protect workers exposed to hazardous substances in the workplace. Eleven carcinogens have been added to the list of hazardous agents, and the exposure limit value for two existing items has been modified.

Number one health hazard: cancer

The new exposure limit values are specifically aimed at reducing exposure to cancer-causing substances, as cancers remain the number one occupational health hazard and primary cause of work-related deaths (53%) within the EU. Each year, around 100,000 to 150,000 people are diagnosed with cancer associated with occupational exposure. Lung cancer, mesothelioma (cancer caused by asbestos exposure) and bladder cancer are the most common.

The latest regulation, still to be approved by the Council of Ministers, is expected to be phased in over a transition period. It should encourage employers to more accurately assess the health hazards to which their workers are exposed.  

To be continued

The current review of exposure limits is only the first step in the process. European Commissioner Marianne Thyssen recently proposed to add another seven hazardous agents to the list. And by early 2019, the European Commission will be deciding whether reprotoxic substances, i.e. those having effects on fertility and foetal development, should also be included.

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