19 October 2018

Diesel exhaust is one of eight cancer-causing chemicals to be added to the list of substances covered by the EU’s Carcinogens and Mutagens Directive.

Announcing the news, European Commissioner Marianne Thyssen said that expanding the scope of the legislation will in particular benefit workers in the chemical, metal and car industry, professional drivers, construction workers, and those in the dock and warehouse sector.

Following agreement between the European Parliament and the Council, Directive 2004/37/EC on the protection of workers from the risks related to exposure to carcinogens or mutagens at work is now set to be amended for the second time since the end of 2017.

Negotiators agreed to set the exposure limit values (the maximum amount of a substance allowed in workplace air) and/or skin notations (the possibility of significantly absorbing a substance through the skin) for five carcinogens: trichloroethylene, 4,4-methylenedianiline, epichlorohydrine, ethylene dibromide, and ethylene dichloride.

Claude Rolin MEP, who helped steer the proposal through the European Parliament, said: “This agreement is a successful outcome, as we managed to introduce a limit value for diesel engine exhaust emissions (DEEE), after months of negotiation.”

In the European Union, more than 12 million workers are exposed occupationally to DEEE, he added, and this revision of the Directive therefore gives a clear signal: monitoring occupational exposure to more and more harmful substances substantially strengthens workers’ protection.

The provisional agreement on the eight chemicals must still be formally approved by the full European Parliament before entering into law.

With the Directive currently covering 22 cancer-causing chemicals, its coverage looks likely to be even further extended if a third amendment aimed at strengthening workers’ protection, which was proposed by the European Commission in April 2018, is also adopted.