Today, the Left in the European Parliament secured a clear victory for millions of workers in the EU protecting them from some of the most harmful substances in the workplace – lead and diisocyanates.

Lead exposure can be extremely harmful to the reproductive systems of both men and women. It poses particular risks to pregnant women and accounts for around half of all occupational exposures to substances that are harmful to reproduction and associated cases of reproductive ill-health.

Diisocyanates are used to produce polyurethane, a key material for a range of applications such as insulation in buildings and appliances. Exposure to diisocyanates can cause occupational asthma and dermal occupational disease – allergic reactions that can occur due to exposure to such substances.

With today’s vote, Parliament agreed to significantly decrease the legal exposure limits of lead and introduced for the first time a limit on diisocyanates. This will protect over 4 million workers in the EU who are currently exposed to these substances. These limits will be reviewed in five years time.

In addition to the specific limit values, Left MEP and rapporteur Nikolaj Villumsen (Red-Green Alliance, Denmark) also succeeded in gathering support for other improvements, including provisions on the “cocktail effect” of exposure to different harmful chemicals at the same time.

After the vote, Villumsen said:  “No one should die or get sick from doing their job. With this report, we take a major step in protecting our workers from exposure to dangerous chemicals such as lead and diisocyanates, a step that is long overdue. For lead, we will significantly lower the exposure limit –  the current value is more than 40 years old. And with the first ever EU-limit value for diisocyanates we will protect more than 4 million workers in the EU who are exposed to them every year. This is a victory in the fight against harmful substances.”

After today’s adoption in the employment committee and at the September plenary, the Left will ask to go directly into negotiations with the Council and Commission.

 

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