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EU to improve protection of workers from dangerous chemical substances

Met dank overgenomen van Sloveens voorzitterschap Europese Unie 2e helft 2021, gepubliceerd op donderdag 16 december 2021.

The Council presidency and the European Parliament have reached a provisional deal to update the carcinogens and mutagens directive, an EU law to protect workers from risks related to exposure to carcinogenic and mutagenic substances.

Under the agreement, workers will benefit from greater protection due to the setting of exposure limits for acrylonitrile and nickel compounds and the lowering of the limits for benzene. In addition, the Council and Parliament have agreed to extend the scope of the directive to reprotoxic substances, chemicals which may interfere with the human reproductive system.

The EU is taking another step to keep workers safe from substances which may lead to cancer or other illnesses. These new rules will reduce exposure to cancer-causing chemicals for an estimated one million workers.

Janez Cigler KraljSlovenian minister for labour, family, social affairs and equal opportunities

Janez Cigler KraljSlovenian minister for labour, family, social affairs and equal opportunities

Reprotoxic substances

Under the agreement between the Council and the Parliament, reprotoxins will from now on be covered by the carcinogens and mutagens directive. (The directive will be renamed the carcinogens, mutagens and reprotoxic substances directive, or CMRD.) As a consequence, the limit values for 12 reprotoxic substances currently dealt with under another EU law will be transferred to the stricter carcinogens and mutagens directive.

Hazardous medicinal products

Hazardous medicinal products are drugs which may lead to health risks for healthcare workers who handle these drugs and administer them to their patients. The Council and European Parliament want workers who deal with carcinogenic, mutagenic or reprotoxic drugs to receive better training on how to handle them safely. They also call on the Commission to issue guidelines on training, surveillance and monitoring.

Next steps

In September 2020, the European Commission proposed a fourth update of the carcinogens and mutagens directive. The Council agreed its position on 25 November 2020. The provisional agreement reached today will now be examined by the Council's Permanent Representatives Committee, which would need to endorse it. The formal vote in both the Council and the European Parliament will follow at a later stage.


According to Commission data, more than one million workers are exposed to acrylonitrile and nickel compounds and benzene, and 52% of occupational deaths in the European Union each year are due to cancer.


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