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S&Ds achieve better protection for workers from cancer in the workplace


21 Feb 2022


Health & Consumers

Today, the European Parliament will take yet another huge step towards protecting workers from exposure to dangerous substances at workplaces around Europe, in the fourth revision of the Carcinogens and Mutagens Directive (CMD). During the inter-institutional negotiations, the Socialists and Democrats successfully managed to include 12 reprotoxic substances. Reprotoxic substances can impair the ability to have children or cause irreversible harm to foetal development.

Heléne Fritzon, S&D MEP and Parliament negotiator on carcinogens and mutagens, said:

“No one should die at work. Sadly, for many Europeans the workplace can become fatal. Around one hundred thousand Europeans die every year from cancer because they were exposed to toxic substances at work. One out of two work-related deaths are caused by cancer - like the firefighter who was exposed to benzene and developed leukaemia. Or the automotive worker handling nickel, which caused lung cancer.

“I am proud that we managed to ensure that from now on reprotoxic substances will fall under the same workplace harm-prevention rules as carcinogens and mutagens. 2 million workers are exposed to dangerous substances that can damage their fertility or harm foetal development. This is simply not acceptable. Pregnant and breast-feeding women in particular deserve a safe workplace.

“We also achieved better protection for healthcare workers and nurses from exposure to hazardous drugs, mostly used to treat cancer. Currently, 12.7 million healthcare workers are exposed to hazardous medicinal products at work in the EU. Nurses who handle cytotoxic drugs (medicines that possess anti-tumoural properties) are three times more likely to develop cancer and twice as likely to miscarry. We owe our oncology healthcare workers better protective measures to ensure that those treating cancer do not themselves develop cancer.”

Agnes Jongerius, S&D MEP and coordinator, said:

“Our goal is zero work-related deaths. All workers are entitled to have health and safety guaranteed at their workplace. Adding 25 additional substances to the Carcinogens and Mutagens Directive brings us a big step closer to this goal. It would cover 80% of all exposure at work. Now, the Commission must step up its ambitions and propose an action plan on the inclusion of such substances by the end of this year, and put forward additional revisions to deliver on this promise without delay.”


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