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

Written by Nicole Scholz (2nd edition, updated on 30/03/2021),

Serious health hazard

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. 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 present (fourth) proposal addresses an additional three.

The proposal was announced as one of the first measures of the Commission’s commitment to fight cancer under Europe’s Beating Cancer Plan.

Broad discussions with scientists and social partners fed into all four proposals. The Commission’s feedback period on the proposal ran until November 2020. While broadly welcoming the proposal, professional organisations, trade unions and patient groups would like carcinogenic and mutagenic hazardous medicines as well as substances toxic for reproduction to be brought within the scope of the current proposal.

Parliament’s Committee on Employment and Social Affairs (EMPL) is in charge of the file. The rapporteur’s draft report was considered in the EMPL meeting on 27 January 2021 and adopted on 25 March 2021. The Council agreed its position on 25 November 2020.


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: Trilogue negotiations

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