Public Hearing EMPL EP Committee on protecting workers from carcinogens and mutagens at work

Public Hearing EMPL EP Committee on protecting workers from carcinogens and mutagens at work

Posted on July 13, 2017

Following the provisional agreement reached by the Maltese presidency and the European Parliament on 28 June 2017 on a new directive intended to help protect workers from exposure to carcinogens or mutagens in the workplace, the European Parliament Committee on Employment and Social Affairs organised today, 13 July, a Public Hearing aiming to debate on the scientific and economic consideration underlying the important legislative proposal amending Directive 2004/37/EC on the protection of workers from the risks related to exposure to carcinogens or mutagens at work (rapporteur Claude Rolin (EPP, FR), and in particular on its expected implications for the main stakeholders concerned, including the nurses.

For the nursing profession, this is a key concern, knowing that 7.3 million nurses, and more than 12.7 million health professionals in Europe, are exposed every year to carcinogenic, mutagenic and reprotoxic hazardous drugs, and that the Carcinogens and Mutagens Directive (2004/37/EC) does not currently acknowledge the dangers of hazardous drugs in healthcare or detail how they should be prevented. In 2012 up to 106,500 cancer deaths were attributed to occupational exposure to carcinogenic substances, making cancer the first cause of work-related deaths in the EU. It is estimated that in Europe each year occupational exposure to hazardous drugs produces 2,220 new cases of leukaemia alone which results in 1,467 additional deaths of health professionals each year. It is, therefore, time to act to prevent nurses and other health professionals from the deadly chemical risks during activities such as the preparation and administration of hazardous drugs, including cytotoxic drugs used to treat patients with cancer.

The EFN is working with MEPs and other expert groups to draft amendments to the Carcinogens and Mutagens Directive that will for the first time specifically address in legislation the risks to health professionals from occupational exposure to hazardous drugs and what needs to be done to protect them from contracting cancer and the reproductive problems that arise from carcinogenic drugs. The Directive should define hazardous drugs by the agreed six characteristics they display and the EU should publish regularly a list of hazardous drugs and guidelines to prevent occupational exposure. Health professionals must receive suitable and regular information on the risks, personal protective equipment, as well as suitable decontamination, cleaning and disinfection guidelines based on surface contamination levels and type of drugs and regular monitoring of surface contamination needs to be mandatory.