Brussels - EU lawmakers have agreed to introduce stricter exposure limits for 13 "cancer-causing chemicals" in the workplace, the European Commission (EC) has announced. At least three chemicals used in the rubber industry are listed.
The move is based on an EC proposal to amend the carcinogens and mutagens directive, which was agreed 11 July by the European Parliament and the European Council.
The Commission is pushing for a similar agreement on a second proposal, that would soon extend the controls to cover 20 listed chemicals. Proposals to cover a further set of substances are due early next year.
Among the initial group of 13 chemicals are 1,3-butadiene, as used in manufacture of rubber products as well as refined petroleum products.
Some 27,600 workers are stated to be exposed to the substance, which is listed as being a cause of lymphohaema-topoietic cancer, An exposure limit of 2.2 mg/m3 is proposed.
Another is bromoethylene, with applications including rubber and plastic production; leather production and fabricated metal production. An exposure limit of 4.4 mg/m3 is listed for the substance which is said to be linked to liver cancer.
Other listed chemicals used in the rubber industries include o-toluidine. Exposure limits are also set for 1,2- epoxypropane, which is used in polyurethane systems and vinyl chloride monomer.
The new exposure limits mark a "milestone" in the protection of workers, claimed commissioner Marianne Thyssen, in charge of Employment, Social Affairs, Skills and Labour Mobility.
The fight against work-related cancer is a "top priority" for the Commission, added Thyssen, who estimates that the new rules could help save 100,000 lives over the next 50 years.