Every year in Europe, around 120,000 workers develop work-related cancer and 80,000 die as a result of it. Work-related cancer causes more than half of all deaths associated with working conditions.
Those were some of the shocking figures explained in the Roadmap on Carcinogens conference held in Helsinki on 27 and 28 November, which had the motto ‘Working together to eliminate occupational cancer’. Experts from several European countries and organisations met in Finland's capital city to explore how to accelerate the fight against work-related cancer.
During the conference opening, Minister of Social Affairs and Health Aino-Kaisa Pekonen said that "these figures are alarming. We must work more effectively to prevent exposure to carcinogenic substances. By increasing our knowledge about carcinogens, how to manage them and how to prevent exposure to them, we are already taking an important step forward." "This information is vital to employers and employees alike,” she stressed.
The goal of the experts is to limit exposure to carcinogenic substances at work in the EU by setting binding limit values to be complied with at workplaces.
The European Commission is in the process of amending the Carcinogens and Mutagens Directive with four separate proposals, The Commission has already published the first three proposals amending the Directive, and they are now being implemented by the Member States. The Commission is currently preparing the fourth proposal for a directive and is expected to adopt it in early 2020.
Better risk assessment needed
Conference attendees heard a presentation by Christa Sedlatschek, Executive Director of the European Agency for Safety and Health at Work, on cancer risks at workplaces.
According to her, there is still a need for better risk assessment at workplaces, in addition to more information. Practical tools, good practices and examples would help in getting rid of the most dangerous substances or replacing them with less harmful ones.
An agreement on the continuation of the campaign Roadmap on Carcinogens was signed in Helsinki on 28 November. The conference is one of the official meetings of Finland’s Presidency of the EU Council.