Navigation path

Left navigation

Additional tools

European Commission - Statement

Protecting workers against cancer-causing chemicals: Commissioner Thyssen welcomes third agreement between EU institutions

Brussels, 29 January 2019

Today, the European Parliament, the Council and the Commission reached a provisional agreement on the Commission's third proposal to broaden the list of recognised cancer-causing chemicals in the workplace. With this agreement, 5 additional cancer-causing chemicals will be covered by the Carcinogens and Mutagens Directive. Commissioner for Employment, Social Affairs, Skills and Labour Mobility, Marianne Thyssen, welcomed the agreement with the following statement:

"Through 3 successive updates to the Carcinogens and Mutagens Directive, we have taken a fundamental step in protecting European workers from the biggest silent killer in the workplace: cancer. Today's agreement on the Commission's third proposal will improve working conditions for over 1 million EU workers and prevent over 22,000 cases of work-related illness. It will help create healthier and safer workplaces, which is a core principle of the European Pillar of Social Rights. This agreement will, for instance, ensure better protection of workers in the nickel-cadmium battery manufacture, zinc and copper smelting, laboratories, electronics, funeral and embalming, construction, healthcare, plastics and recycling sectors. At the same time, clear and simple health and safety rules on these 5 chemicals will benefit businesses in our internal market. Particular attention has been paid to helping small and micro-enterprises comply with the new rules.

Today's agreement confirms once again the strong commitment from all actors to the European Pillar of Social Rights. I extend my thanks to rapporteur Laura Agea and the shadow rapporteurs on behalf of the European Parliament, and to the Romanian Presidency and its predecessors on behalf of the Council. This agreement should now be confirmed quickly to ensure the new rules are in place for the European elections in May 2019.”

Next steps

The agreement will be submitted to the Council's Permanent Representatives Committee (Coreper) for approval. Once the Member States' Permanent Representatives confirm the agreement, it will be subject to a final vote by the plenary of the European Parliament.


Accounting for 53% of all work-related deaths, cancer is the leading cause of work-related deaths in the European Union. To improve protection for workers from cancer-causing chemicals, the Commission has already presented 3 rounds of changes to the Carcinogens and Mutagens Directive (2004/37/EC) to limit exposure to these substances. 27 cancer-causing chemicals are now covered by the Directive, of which 26 have been added or updated under the mandate of the Juncker Commission.

The first amendment of the Carcinogens and Mutagens Directive was adopted as a Directive 2017/2398 by the co-legislators at the end of 2017. A second proposal was published in January 2017 and agreed between co-legislators at the end of 2018. Today's provisional agreement marks one of the final steps in the negotiation stage of the third proposal from 5 April 2018. Concrete examples of the substances and sectors concerned under this revision can be found in this memo.

While the majority of Member States have national exposure limits for many cancer-causing chemicals, some Member States are less stringent. This means that workers are not equally protected across the Single Market and that there is no level playing field for businesses.

As scientific knowledge about cancer-causing chemicals is constantly evolving, the Commission supports a continuous process of updating the Carcinogens and Mutagens Directive (Directive 2004/37/EC). The agreements found with the European Parliament and the Council of the European Union will improve protection for around 40 million people and help save the lives of more than 100,000 workers over the next 50 years.

These initiatives are part of the Commission's broader effort to improve health and safety standards at the workplace throughout Europe. In this context, the Commission has launched an in-depth review and update of the existing legislation in January 2017.

For more information

Press release: Commission takes further action to better protect workers against cancer-causing chemicals

MEMO: Commission follows up on workers' protection from cancer-causing chemicals: frequently asked questions on the third revision of the Carcinogens and Mutagens Directive

Follow Marianne Thyssen on Facebook and Twitter

Subscribe to the European Commission's free e-mail newsletter on employment, social affairs and inclusion



Press contacts:

General public inquiries: Europe Direct by phone 00 800 67 89 10 11 or by email

Side Bar