EP: new limits for lead and diisocyanates exposure

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5th revision of EU legislation to protect from health and safety risks

The European Parliament gave the final approval on Wednesday (7 February) to the fifth revision of the EU legislation to the protection of workers from health and safety risks from exposure to carcinogens, mutagens or reprotoxic substances (CMR) at work.

The new legislation, already agreed upon in interinstitutional discussions in November, was endorsed during the plenary in Strasbourg with 589 votes in favour, 10 against, and 40 abstentions.  

“Today, no one should die or get sick from going to work. That is why it is so important that we today put workers’ health at the forefront”, Danish MEP Nikolaj Villumsen, rapporteur for the file, said during the debate in Strasbourg.

Lead is a naturally occurring metal used in various products, including gasoline, paint, plumbing pipes, ceramics, solders, batteries, and cosmetics. It can damage the central nervous system, affect sexual function and fertility, and harm the development of a foetus or offspring of exposed women. It can also affect the kidneys, the heart, and the blood. 

According to the European Commission, lead accounts for around half of all occupational exposures to reprotoxic substances, with approximately 300 cases of ill-health occurring annually in the EU due to past exposure to lead. 

  • For lead, the new rules will set the limits at less than a quarter of the current values: the occupational exposure limit will be set at 0.03 mg/m3 and the biological limit value at 15 µg/100 ml. For this last case, a transition period of three years is foreseen. 

  • In the case of diisocyanates, the new occupational exposure limit will be set at 6 µg NCO/m3 – the maximum concentration that a worker can be exposed to during an eight-hour working day – and at 12 µg NCO/m3 for short-term exposure.

  • EU Institutions also agreed that the Commission will revise lead limits in five years, taking into account updated scientific data, to better protect workers of childbearing age, while rules for diisocyanate will also be reviewed by 2029.

Source: Euractiv, Marta Iraola. Click here to read the full article.

Consolidated text: Directive 2004/37/EC (without the updates from this 5th revision)