New exposure limit values will save lives, but a more ambitious strategy aimed at eliminating work-related cancers is urgently required, according to the European Trade Union Confederation (ETUC).
Further to the European Commission’s proposal, the Confederal Secretary of the ETUC, Esther Lynch, stated: “The present exposure limit values are based on very old data, going back more than 40 years in some cases, and given the large number of deaths each year due to work-related cancers, these limits are clearly not sufficient to save lives.”
The trade unions long ago demonstrated the need for new exposure limit values. Cancer is the leading cause of work-related deaths in the EU, which means that the Commission must initiate other measures. The ETUC calls for the adoption of OELVs for at least 50 priority carcinogenic substances by 2020. Commissioner Thyssen promised to propose 25 OELVs in 2016 in order to achieve a total of 50 OELVs in the directive on carcinogenic agents by 2020. With the 13 OELVs added in May 2016 and the five of the current proposal, “the objective of 25 is still far from being reached”.
Significant carcinogenic substances such as diesel engine exhaust gases and reprotoxic substances are still absent from the proposals, not to mention the agreement reached by the social partners in the field of hairdressing, which is still ignored in the legislative proposals.
The Commission can and must adopt a more ambitious strategy in order to eliminate work-related cancers. According to Mrs Lynch: “The EU must go back to the promotion of quality of work, which means safe and healthy workplaces irrespective of the company’s size.”