Call to Action : ETUC position and publications on occupational cancer ahead of BECA's public hearing on environmental and occupational cancers (December 11th) 

To : Members of the Special Committee on Beating Cancer at the European Parliament 

Dear BECA Members, 

Ahead of the public hearing on environmental and occupational cancers which will take place this Friday, the European Trade Union Confederation (ETUC) would like to recall that 8% of all cancer cases are work-related (12% of cancer cases among men and 7% of cancer cases among women). Occupational cancers could be avoided by eliminating carcinogens and reducing workers' exposure in the production processes.  

The ETUC acknowledges the improvements in terms of better protection for workers against occupational cancer which have been made during the previous mandate of the European Parliament, with the establishment of binding occupational exposure limit values (BOELs) for 25 priority substances. However, with more than 100,000 work-related cancer deaths per year, the European trade union movement believes that much more needs to be done. There are still 25 priority substances against which workers should be protected. Some of the limits are still far too high and needs to be lowered as soon as possible and the scope of the Carcinogens and Mutagens Directive (2004/37/EC) should be extended to reprotoxic substances and also include hazardous medicinal products. 

The European Commission has put forward the fourth update of the Directive 2004/37/EC on the protection of workers from the risks related to exposure to carcinogens or mutagens at work (CMD). ETUC has welcomed this update, which would protect 1.1 million people from work-related cancer by putting Binding Occupational Exposure Limit Values (BOELs) on Acrylonitrile, Nickel compounds and Benzene.  

However, some of the obligations from the previous revisions of the Directive are still to be fulfilled, despite the deadline for doing so having expired. ETUC therefore urges the EU institutions to extend the scope of the CMD to substances toxic for reproduction and to hazardous medicinal products. We are also calling for a new coherent, transparent and risk-based system of setting exposure limits, based on the systems used in Germany and the Netherlands.  

We would like that the approach and demands of the European trade union movement on occupational cancer are considered in the framework of the above-mentioned hearing as well as in the continued work of the BECA Committee. 

Please find attached three briefing notes which have been produced by the European Trade Union Institute (ETUI), making a strong case in favour of the improvement of the CMD revision. 

Other more extensive background documentation on occupational cancer can be found at : 

Takala, J. Eliminating occupational cancer in Europe and globallyETUI, 2015: 

VOGEL, L., MUSU, T. Cancer and work - Understanding occupational cancers and taking action to eliminate them. ETUI, 2018: 

With best regards, 


Per Hilmersson 

ETUC Deputy General Secretary