MEPs adopted a new law adding exposure limit values for five chemicals harmful to workers’ health. MEPs adopted the text agreed with EU Ministers by wide majority by 586 votes to 10 with 26 abstentions. 

The legislation adds cadmium, beryllium, arsenic acid, formaldehyde and 4,4′-Methylene-bis(2-chloroaniline) (MOCA) to the EU list of harmful substances. These chemicals are used in a wide range of sectors, such as nickel-cadmium battery manufacture, zinc and copper smelting, laboratories, electronics, funerals and embalming, construction, healthcare (pathology departments and autopsy rooms), plastics and recycling sectors. 

The new rules will improve working conditions for over one million EU workers and prevent over 22 000 cases of work-related illness. 

Transition periods 

The adopted text sets the following transition periods: 

  • 8 years for cadmium, 
  • 7 years for beryllium and 
  • 4 years for arsenic acid. 

For Formaldehyde, a transition period of 5 years is foreseen only for health and the funeral sector, in view of their specific situation. 

Cadmium and cytotoxic drugs: possible further amendments 

The European Commission shall assess within three years whether the Directive should be amended to include further provisions on cadmium. In addition, the Commission will, upon Parliament’s request, assess no later than the end of the second quarter of 2020 the option of amending the Carcinogens and Mutagens Directive (CMD) to include hazardous drugs, including cytotoxic drugs, or to propose a more appropriate instrument to ensure the occupational safety of workers.