More than 40 trade unionists from 14 European countries attended the European Trade Union Institute's (ETUI) annual seminar on chemical substances held in Dublin on June 25th and 26th. An important focus of this 11th edition of the event was the risks linked to exposure to pesticides in the agriculture sector.

From lonely shepherd to huge agri-business facility

‘Workers in this sector handle a wide range of chemical products on a daily basis but are rarely well informed about the risks entailed’, explained ETUI researcher Tony Musu. ‘What is more, the sector covers so many different kinds of work, from the shepherd isolated in his mountains to the employees in the huge production units run by the giants of the agro-food industry. A high proportion of this workforce consists of migrant and sometimes clandestine workers and there exist numerous obstacles to the introduction of effective prevention policies,’ he added.

Additional topics examined at the gathering were the following: the European trade union campaign for the adoption of limit values for occupational exposure to the 50 carcinogenic substances most frequently found in work places; nanotechnologies; and a critical stocktaking of the first authorisations granted in the framework of the REACH regulations.

Who was there

The gathering was attended by experts from the French National Institute for Agricultural Research (INRA), the French agriculture ministry, the European Chemicals Agency (ECHA) and the European Agency for Safety and Health at Work (EU-OSHA), all of whom shared their expertise in presentations and discussions with participants on the best strategies for reducing chemical risks.

The purpose of these annual gatherings is to exchange information and coordinate trade union action for the prevention of chemical risks in the workplace.

Further reading:

Chemical risk in agriculture, Catherine Laurent (INRA) (pdf - 1.51 Mb)

Compensation for chronic conditions caused by pesticides, Anne-Marie Soubielle (ministère français de l'Agriculture) (pdf - 1.28 Mb)

REACH authorisation process.Is it delivering?, Dolores Romano (Ecologistas en Acción) & Tatiana Santos (EEB) (pdf - 1.14 Mb)

CMR substances on the EU market, Palmi Atlason (ECHA) (pdf - 911.15 Kb)

Update on EU-OSHA activities, Elke Schneider(EU-OSHA) (pdf - 783.77 Kb)

Nanomaterials and worker protection, Doreen Fedrigo-Fazio (ETUI) (pdf - 722.18 Kb)