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EU acts against work related cancer

Submitted by on 30 Sep 2016 – 17:13

The most common cause of work-related deaths in the EU is cancer and bladder cancer was one of the first cancers to be linked to occupation. The European Commission recently proposed changes to the Carcinogens and Mutagens Directive to limit exposure to 13 cancer-causing chemicals in the workplace. Marianne Thyssen, European Commissioner for Employment, Social Affairs, Skills and Labour Mobility, explains how workers are currently protected under the EU legislation and elaborates on the latest proposal

Cancer is the single biggest health risk to workers in the European Union. While cancer is no doubt a disease with complex causes, our response, at least, should be simple. We should reduce or eliminate the exposure of workers to chemicals that lead to the disease.
That is why I have proposed to introduce new exposure limits for 13 cancer causing-chemicals at the workplace.

Currently, around 20 million EU workers are exposed to at least one of these chemicals. My proposal can save 100,000 lives in the next 50 years, and protect many more from the suffering and economic costs caused by cancer.

My primary goal is to protect the health and safety of European workers. But this proposal will also benefit employers, member states, and the economy as a whole. As a result, employers will be able to protect their workers better – which I believe is what most of them genuinely want to do.

Employers will now have concrete, measurable yardsticks against which they can ensure compliance. And they will be able to hold on to their healthy, skilled workforce for longer. Member states benefit because the proposal will reduce the healthcare costs related to cancer treatment and rehabilitation. And the economy as a whole will benefit from improved labour productivity and a lower burden on public finances.

Zero-risk does not exist: not in life and not at work. But where we can reduce the risk and save workers’ lives, it is our duty to act. I am doing so with this proposal and I will continue to work, as a matter of priority, on new exposure limits for additional chemicals.

I want Europe to continue to set the world standard on health and safety at work, based on scientific evidence and intense dialogue with our social partners