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Published: 4 month

Tighter rules to protect workers from dangerous substances for the first time in 40 years

MEPs on Wednesday adopted new rules to limit exposure to harmful substances at work, setting new limits for lead and diisocyanates for the first time in forty years.

In the EU, 50-150 thousand workers are exposed to lead and 4.2 million workers to diisocyanates every year. They are used in building renovation, to lighten batteries, wind turbines and electric vehicles.Lead can affect fertility and foetal development in women and men and can damage the nervous system, kidneys and cause high blood pressure, the EP press release said.

The new limits, updated for the first time since 1982, have been reduced to less than a quarter of the current levels: the occupational exposure limit is 0.03 milligrams per cubic metre and the biological limit is 15 micrograms per 100 millilitres.

The European Commission should review these limit values within five years to better protect women workers of childbearing age, taking into account the latest scientific data, they wrote.

The statement said diisocyanates are harmful to workers' health, are one of the most common causes of asthma at work and can cause allergic reactions.

The new legislation sets the occupational exposure limit for diisocyanates at 6 micrograms of NCO per cubic meter (the maximum concentration to which a worker can be exposed in an eight-hour workday), and 12 micrograms of NCO per cubic meter for short-term (i.e., 15-minute) exposures. The European Commission will review these limits by 2029.

Several workers have been exposed to lead for several years, and the levels of lead in their blood have accumulated well above the new limits. To better protect the health of such workers, regular medical examinations should be carried out to determine whether they can continue to perform tasks involving exposure to lead.

The legislation still has to be formally approved by the Council of governments of the member states before it can be published in the EU's Official Journal and enter into force after 20 days.


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