S&Ds achieve major victory to protect workers from diesel fumes

Thanks to an agreement struck today between the European Parliament, the European Commission and the Council, European workers will be protected from exposure to diesel engine exhaust emissions (DEEEs or diesel fumes) in the workplace. Until today, exposure to diesel fumes was not covered by European legislation on carcinogens and mutagens, which only provided for seven carcinogenic substances.

The new law will set the limit value of 50 μg/m3 for exposure to diesel fumes, as well as new stricter rules for other seven substances that are proven to cause cancer and mutations (epichlorohydrin, ethylene dibromide, ethylene dichloride, 4,4-methylenedianiline, trichloroethylene). The new legislation is expected to significantly improve the health of exposed workers and reduce the number of cancer cases.

Following pressure from the S&D, which had initially proposed the new provision, the Council accepted the inclusion of diesel fumes in the Carcinogens and Mutagens Directive. Industries will have a two-year transition period to adjust. An additional five years for underground mining and tunnel construction was agreed.

The S&D Group negotiator on this issue, Marita Ulvskog MEP, stated:

“Today is a good day for European workers exposed to carcinogenic substances including diesel fumes. The European Parliament managed to push through an ambitious agenda for workers’ health and convince the Commission and the Council to accept significantly higher level of protection.

“The protection of European workers is a key S&D priority and we will fight to ensure that their health is not jeopardised in the workplace. We Socialists and Democrats have been at the forefront for the inclusion of diesel fumes in the Directive. Workers’ protection is our top priority.”

S&D Group spokesperson on employment and social affairs, Agnes Jongerius MEP, added:

“I am very satisfied with the result of the agreement reached today. The new provisions introduce diesel fuels and new stricter limit values for other carcinogenic and mutagenic substances proven to cause cancer.

“This is a major victory for European workers and the European Parliament. Half of the deaths caused by an occupational disease in the EU are attributed to cancer. By restricting the exposure of workers to diesel fumes we will be able to save at least 11,000 people in the next 40 years.

“European workers deserve healthy and decent working conditions that allow them to provide for themselves and their families. We Socialists and Democrats will continue to fight for their rights.”

Note to editors:

Diesel engine exhaust is a complex mixture of gaseous and particulate compounds produced during the combustion of diesel fuels. It is used widely for transport and power supply.

In 2012, based on evidence, the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) classified diesel engine exhaust as carcinogenic to humans (lung cancer and cancer of the urinary bladder).

Exposure to diesel exhaust is also associated with inflammatory lung effects and cardiovascular effects.

Occupational exposure to diesel exhaust occurs in a large array of sectors: underground and ground mining, construction work, professional driving (roads and railways), agriculture, forestry, waste management, dock and warehouse work, garage and rail car maintenance and other activities where diesel-powered vehicles are employed.

This is the second revision of the Carcinogens and Mutagens Directive since 2015. The first revision was adopted last year, whereas the third one is currently being negotiated in both the European Parliament and the Council.