In a new publication from the European Trade Union Institute (ETUI), an international expert in occupational health calls on the EU to be at the forefront of a global campaign for the elimination of occupational cancers.
"We can and we must have a more ambitious goal: to eliminate occupational cancers," writes Jukka Takala in a working paper published by the ETUI early October. This occupational health expert, former director of the European Agency for Safety and Health at Work, calls on the EU to play a leading role in the global fight against the "cancer epidemic."
Jukka Takala estimates that occupational cancers each year cause the death of 102,500 people in the EU, twenty times more than workplace accidents. Based on British data, it considers that 85% of cases of occupational cancer are related to exposure at work to a dozen carcinogens.
The human cost of asbestos is still very high: Mr Takala's estimated that nearly 47,000 deaths per year in the EU. But other less known carcinogens also cause a significant number of cancers: mineral oils, solar radiation, silica, exhaust gas from diesel engines, etc. The organization of work is also implicated: shift work increases the risk of cancer, especially breast cancer.
As a very important producer of chemicals, the EU must play a key role in the prevention of work-related cancers, says in substance Mr Takala. He recalled that Europe has with the REACH Regulation on trade in chemicals a tool to make progress in this field. In addition to REACH, is also a major European legislation specifically devoted to the protection of workers against carcinogens. This legislation should be strengthened, including through mandatory occupational exposure limit values for a larger number of carcinogens, recommends the expert in occupational health.
Takala, J., Eliminating occupational cancer in Europe and globally (October 2015)