The European Union strengthens workers protection against cancer!

On Thursday 17 February, the European Parliament adopted by a large majority the revision of the directive on carcinogens and mutagens at work (CMD). 

 After years of discussions, the co-legislators finally reached an agreement in December 2021 to extend the scope of the directive to substances toxic to reproduction, a priority of the Renew Europe group.

At least two million workers are exposed to these substances, which can impair fertility and the development of the unborn child. Including these substances will also better protect them from a number of endocrine disruptors (such as bisphenol A). Several Member States have already included reprotoxic substances in their national transposition of the CMD directive. This agreement therefore provides for upward social convergence in Europe.

As the first legislative initiative of Europe’s beating cancer plan, this agreement sends a strong signal to healthcare professionals. Certain medicinal products, especially those used in cancer treatments, contain substances that are themselves carcinogenic, mutagenic or toxic for reproduction. For the co-legislators (European Parliament and EU Council of Ministers), the conclusion is clear: these medicinal products should be covered by the protective measures of the directive. The European Commission will prepare guidelines for the safe handling of these substances and is also tasked to identify those medicinal products with carcinogenic, mutagenic and reprotoxic properties in order to publish a list, which should be updated regularly.

This text addresses the social determinants of cancer, by not only strengthening the protection of the more than 1 million workers exposed to three carcinogenic substances (Benzene, Nickel compounds, Acrylonitrile), but also by providing for the preparation of an action plan, by 2022, for more occupational exposure limit values and better consideration of risks when setting them.

For Véronique Trillet-Lenoir, MEP and shadow rapporteur of the Renew Europe group for this text: "This agreement represents not only a key step in the implementation of a real European strategy to fight cancer but also an indispensable support to the healthcare professionals, whose commitment during the health crisis is worthy of respect. They are on the front line against cancer and must be protected. No one should be left behind. I welcome the adoption of this agreement as a further step towards a true European Health Union.”