Agreement on Workplace Exposure to Diesel Engine Emissions

The three parts of the EU legislature – the EU Commission, EU Council of Ministers and European parliament – have now reached agreement on including workplace exposure to diesel engine emissions (DEEE) in the updated Carcinogens and Mutagens Directive (CMD).

The agreement, announced in a press release on 11 October, follows a vote by MEPs on the employment and social affairs committee in March, which then triggered six months of negotiations.

The exposure limit will be set at 0.05 mg/m³ of elemental carbon from all diesel engines, without distinguishing between sources of diesel emissions.

Although diesel engine exhaust emissions are regulated in the UK under the Control of Substances Hazardous to Health (COSHH) regulations, there is currently no workplace exposure limit to guide regulators or employers.

Workplace exposure to diesel engine emissions were omitted from the original draft text of the Commission’s second proposal to update the CMD, which dates from January 2017.

According to the EU, cancer is the leading cause of work-related deaths in the EU, with 53% of occupational deaths across the region attributed to cancer, almost double the 28% for circulatory diseases, while respiratory diseases account for 6%.

The UK’s stance towards the new limit will depend on its future relationship with the EU and the terms of any trade agreement drawn up following transitional arrangements – assuming that a Brexit withdrawal agreement can be signed.

The EU estimates that 12 million workers are exposed to diesel engine exhaust emissions in the workplace.

The agreement also covers limit values (for workplace air) or skin notations (for the possibility of the chemical being absorbed through the skin) for five other cancer-causing substances.

The five additional carcinogens are trichloroethylene, 4,4-methylenedianiline, epichlorohydrine, ethylene dibromide and ethylene dichloride.

The agreement will now be submitted to the European Council’s permanent representatives committee for approval, and then will be subject to a vote by the European Parliament.