EU to Add OELs for Formaldehyde, Other Chemicals

Published February 7, 2019

Last week, the European Parliament, Council, and Commission reached a provisional agreement on a proposal to broaden the list of substances harmful to European workers’ health. The agreed-upon text adds exposure limit values for five carcinogenic chemical agents: cadmium, beryllium, arsenic acid, formaldehyde, and 4,4'-methylene-bis(2-chloroaniline), or MOCA. This update will mark the third revision of the EU’s 2004 Carcinogens and Mutagens Directive, which sets maximum concentrations for cancer-causing chemicals in workplace air. A statement by the European Commission suggests that the new agreement will improve worker protections in several sectors, including nickel-cadmium battery manufacturing, zinc and copper smelting, laboratories, electronics, funeral and embalming, construction, healthcare, and plastics and recycling. The proposal is intended to ensure the same minimum level of protection for all workers across the EU.

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

An EU-OSHA press release explains that the agreement must be endorsed by the Council's Permanent Representatives Committee and confirmed by the Parliament’s Employment Committee and the plenary.