European Commission blamed for 100,000 work cancers each year

The European Commission’s drive to simplify legislation for businesses has come under fire from trade unions for blocking EU laws that could save thousands of lives per year. Laurent Vogel, a senior researcher at the European Trade Union Institute (ETUI), said that more than 100,000 workers were dying from work-related cancers each year, and blamed the European Commission for inaction.

Vogel is citing official data coming from the EU health and safety agency, EU-OSHA. And he said their fatalities toll is probably an underestimate. “100,000 deaths could be perfectly avoided. And the reality is above this figure, because it does not include the cases of cancers caused by endocrine disruptors,” said Vogel, speaking at a July 2015 EurActiv Institute workshop.

The Commission’s push for ‘Better Regulation’ is effectively blocking attempts to protect workers who suffer from exposure to toxic chemicals in their daily jobs, he added. “We have been discussing the revision of the carcinogens directive for the last ten years,” he said, claiming that Better Regulation “has completely paralysed the process”.

He denouncing a “cynical show” where business lobby groups request the Commission to conduct endless impact assessment studies before any new legislation can be considered.

“The recent scandal on the endocrine disruptors policy is a clear example of that,” Vogel said. “It gives you the real meaning of the nice words ‘better regulation’. They are used to paralyse any regulatory initiative when industrial lobbies just ask you to do so.” He said there has been “a dramatic increase” in breast, prostate and other cancers linked with workplace exposure to endocrine disruptors. Vogel stressed that binding limit values on exposure to some chemicals “are not sufficient” to protect workers from exposure to hazardous substances. “For instance, if we take the existing binding limit values, even if they are fully respected, they are still causing cancers,” he said.

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