The Spanish government reconsiders workers’ protection from carcinogens


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On 8 October, the Spanish government presented the national occupational health and safety commission with a draft decree transposing the European directive on the protection  of workers from carcinogens.

The draft provides for a reduction of the protection levels already adopted in Spain. As regards crystalline silica, the Spanish occupational exposure limit value (OELV) is currently 0.05 mg/m³. Under the draft decree, this would be doubled (0.1mg/m³). The scientific literature shows that such a level results in a high number of deaths linked to silicosis, lung cancer and other diseases. As for acrylamide, a cause of pancreatic cancer, the Spanish government intends to triple the maximum exposure level, while it would be doubled for bromoethylene (vinyl bromide), a cause of liver cancer.

The government states that this major step backwards in occupational health legislation is justified, citing an alignment of Spanish OELVs with the EU directive. It would also help improve the competitiveness of Spanish companies. Spanish unions reject this argument, arguing that the EU occupational health directives only specify minimum standards. Each Member State is able to maintain or adopt national rules providing workers with a higher level of protection.

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