Members' Research Service By / October 29, 2020

Limits on exposure to carcinogens and mutagens at work: Fourth proposal [EU Legislation in Progress]

The European Commission has proposed to amend Directive 2004/37/EC, by expanding its scope and by including and/or revising occupational exposure limit values for a number of cancer- or mutation-causing chemical agents.

Serious health hazard

Written by Laurence Amand-Eeckhout (3rd edition, updated on 9.2.2022),

In September 2020, as part of the fight against cancer and to protect the health of workers in a number of industries, the European Commission proposed to amend the Carcinogens and Mutagens Directive (Directive 2004/37/EC), expanding its scope and including and/or revising occupational exposure limit values for a number of cancer- or mutation-causing chemical agents. The initiative is proceeding in steps and has now become a continuous process. Following on from three previous legislative amendments, which covered a total of 26 priority chemical agents, the fourth proposal addresses an additional three.

On 16 December 2021, after interinstitutional negotiations, the Council and the European Parliament reached a provisional agreement on the proposal. The agreed text was endorsed by Coreper, for the Council, on 22 December 2021 and then approved by Parliament’s Committee on Employment and Social Affairs on 25 January 2022. Under the agreement, workers will benefit from greater protection, owing to the setting of exposure limits for acrylonitrile and nickel compounds and the lowering of the limits for benzene. The scope of the proposed directive would include reprotoxic substances (which have adverse effects on reproduction and can cause impaired fertility or infertility). Workers who deal with hazardous medicinal products would receive better training on how to handle them safely. A vote in plenary is expected in February 2022.


Proposal for a directive of the European Parliament and of the Council amending Directive 2004/37/EC on the protection of workers from the risks related to exposure to carcinogens or mutagens at work
Committee responsible: Employment and Social Affairs (EMPL) COM(2020) 571
Rapporteur: Stefania Zambelli (ID, Italy) 2020/0262 (COD)
Shadow rapporteurs: Cindy Franssen (EPP, Belgium)Johan Danielsson (S&D, Sweden)
Véronique Trillet-Lenoir (Renew, France)
Sara Matthieu (Greens/EFA, Belgium)
Joanna Kopcińska (ECR, Poland)
Nikolaj Villumsen (The Left, Denmark)
Ordinary legislative procedure (COD) (Parliament and Council on equal footing – formerly ‘co-decision’)
Next steps expected: Final first-reading vote in plenary

voted in Plenary

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