Workers and chemicals: 16th ETUI seminar

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Taking place for the sixteenth time, the annual ETUI seminar on protecting workers against chemical risks was held on 22 October 2020. Attended by some forty unionists from eighteen European countries, its aim was to coordinate their work in this field.

Discussions centred on the revision of the Carcinogens and Mutagens Directive (CMD), as the European Commission had just published a fourth legislative proposalfor the adoption of new occupational exposure limits (OELs) for three carcinogens.

The chairman of the European Chemicals Agency’s (ECHA) risk assessment committee (RAC) came to explain the agency’s work in preparing the scientific opinions which serve as the starting point for the adoption of European OELs. An RAC expert then provided an account of the work done by the ECHA in developing the OEL for di-isocyanates, chemical substances used to synthesise polymers and the cause of occupational asthma.

The other subjects addressed in the seminar were the new European strategy on chemical substances in the context of the Green Deal for Europe and the research projects of the European Agency for Safety and Health at Work (EU-OSHA) on hazardous substances.

The OELs adopted in the Carcinogens and Mutagens Directive are important, as they oblige each EU Member State to set the same level (or a stricter one) at national level. When respected, OELs help prevent occupational cancers. Causing more than 100,000 deaths each year, occupational cancers are the primary cause of work-related deaths in Europe.



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