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Expert forecast issued on emerging chemical risks related to job safety and health (4/9)

April 9, 2009
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The European Union’s European Agency for Safety and Health at Work (EU-OSHA) has issued a report estimating that about 74,000 work-related deaths may be linked to hazardous substances at work each year in the EU – about 10 times more than workplace accidents.

About 15 percent of European workers report handling chemical products for a quarter of their working time and 19 percent report breathing in dust, fumes and smoke in their workplaces.

The 49 experts from 21 European countries who participated in this forecast highlighted particles and dusts as major emerging concerns and put nanoparticles at the top of the list of emerging risks.

Other main groups of emerging risks identified were carcinogenic, mutagenic and reprotoxic substances, and the increasing use of allergenic and sensitizing substances.

Specific occupations of emerging concerns were also highlighted and include the increasing waste management industry, construction, and service activities such as cleaning or home nursing.

In addition, there is a growing number of workers in SMEs and sub-contracted jobs, where the management of chemical risks is generally poorer.

Last but not least, concern about multiple exposures is increasing as it was also shown in the three other forecasts on emerging biological, physical and psychosocial emerging risks.

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