The European Commission is updating its Carcinogens and Mutagens Directive (2004/37/EC). The Finnish Institute of Occupational Health (FIOH) considers this revision extremely relevant. The aim of the Directive is to decrease occupational exposure to carcinogenic chemical agents such as hardwood dust and chromium. Cancer is the top cause of work-related deaths (53%) in the European Union.
“The Directive will introduce binding occupational exposure limit values for 13 carcinogenic chemical agents. By limit value, we mean the concentration of a chemical agent that must not be exceeded in the breathing air of a worker during the working day,” explains Helene Stockmann-Juvala, Senior Specialist at FIOH.
The European Commission proposes decreasing the current limit values for hardwood dust and vinyl chloride monomer. Carpenters and woodworking machine operators in particular may be exposed to hardwood dust.
“Currently in Finland, only workers exposed to oak and beech need to be entered into the Register of workers exposed to carcinogenic substances and processes (ASA register). In 2013, 812 workers were reported as being exposed to these types of wood dust.
“As the new proposed limit value will also cover birch tree dust, this number is expected to increase,” predicts Stockmann-Juvala.
Workers involved in waste treatment and lorry drivers may be exposed to vinyl chloride monomer.