HARDWOOD DUST: Exposure limit value of 3 mg/m3 for 5 years- thereafter a limit of 2 mg/m3

On 11 July 2017, the Council's Permanent Representatives Committee (so called COREPER) approved the provisional agreement reached with the European Parliament on 28 June on the directive protecting workers from exposure to carcinogens or mutagens in the workplace.

The directive proposes to set exposure limits for a further 11 carcinogens in addition to those covered by the existing 2004 directive. These are: respirable crystalline silica dust, 1,2-epoxypropane, 1,3-butadiene, 2-nitropropane, acrylamide, certain chromium (VI) compounds, ethylene oxide, o-toluidine, refractory ceramic fibres, bromoethylene and hydrazine. 

  • The directive also revises the limits for vinyl chloride monomer and hardwood dusts in the light of more recent scientific data

Moreover, there will be minimum requirements for eliminating and reducing all carcinogens and mutagens. Employers will also have to identify and assess risks to workers who are associated with exposure to specific carcinogens (and mutagens), and must prevent exposure where risks exist. 

The main changes to the Commission proposal related to hardwood dust are the following:

  • Hardwood dust: there will be an exposure limit value of 3 mg/m3 for 5 years after the entry into force of the directive and thereafter a limit of 2 mg/m3.
  • The limit values set out in Annex III to Directive 2004/37/EC for vinyl chloride monomer and hardwood dusts should be revised in the light of more recent scientific and technical data. The distinction between hardwood and softwood dust should be further assessed as regards the limit value in Annex III to Directive 2004/37/EC as recommended by the Scientific Committee on Occupational Exposure Limits and the IARC.
  • Mixed exposure to more than one species of wood is very common, which complicates the exposure assessment of different species of wood. Exposure to dust from softwood and hardwood is common among European workers and may cause respiratory symptoms and diseases, with the most serious health effect being the risk of nasal and sinonasal cancers. It is therefore appropriate to establish that if hardwood dusts are mixed with other wood dusts the limit value set in Annex III for the hardwood dust should apply to all wood dusts present in that mixture.

The new directive will formally be adopted by the Council at a later stage.The Presidency of the Council of the European Union -Estonia- has already declared that the “Proposal for a Directive of the European Parliament and of the Council amending Directive 2004/37/EC on the protection of workers from the risks related to exposure to carcinogens or mutagens at work” represents one of its priority.

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