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With over 94% of the vote, MEPs on the European Parliament's Employment Committee approved on 25 March 2021 significant amendments to the Carcinogens and Mutagens Directive, which aims to protect workers from the risks of exposure to these dangerous substances at work.

Among the proposed modifications there is the extension of the directive’s scope to include substances toxic to reproduction and the inclusion of Hazardous Medicinal Products in its Annex I. A risk-based methodology for setting occupational exposure limit values (OELs) leading to more protective values was also widely supported. The other improvements relate to new obligations imposed on the European Commission. The first is to set up an action plan for the adoption of 25 additional OELs for carcinogens by end 2021. The second is to propose solutions to better protect workers from exposure to “cocktail” of carcinogens.

‘With this overwhelming vote, the European Parliament is sending a strong signal to the European Commission and the Member States on the need to thoroughly improve the existing legislation in order to boost the fight against occupational cancers in Europe’, said Tony Musu, the ETUI expert who is following this dossier for the European trade unions.

Inter-institutional negotiations on the final text of the directive are expected to start in April 2021 under the Portuguese Presidency of the European Union. If confirmed, these changes could come into force in all Member States in 2023. This revision of Directive 2004/37/EC is the fourth in 5 years, the first three being adopted in 2017 and in 2019.

With more than 100,000 deaths per year, occupational cancers are the leading cause of death at work in the EU-27.

Photo: European Parliament

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