European Parliament Adopts Compromise Amendment on Cadmium in 3rd Revision of the Carcinogens and Mutagens Directive

In edition 260 of BC Disease News (here), we reported that the 3rd revision of the Carcinogens and Mutagens Directive (CMD) 2004/37/EC[i] was awaiting final approval from the European Council's Permanent Representatives Committee (COREPER) and a plenary vote of the European Parliament on the final text.

For months, the European Commission, Parliament and Council had been engaged in trilogues (informal negotiations).

Through the 3rd amendment, the Commission proposed to add 5 substances to the existing list of carcinogens, with the following binding time-weighted occupational exposure limits (OEL’s):

  • Cadmium and its inorganic compounds – 0.01 mg/m3;
  • Beryllium and inorganic beryllium compounds – 0.0002 mg/m3;
  • Arsenic acid and its salts, as well as inorganic arsenic compounds – 0.01 mg/m3;
  • Formaldehyde – 0.37 mg/m(and 0.738 mg/m3 short-term exposure); and
  • 4,4-Methylene-bis(2-chloroaniline) (MOCA) – 0.01 mg/m3.[ii]

The 3rd amendment also proposed the prescription of an airborne OEL and a biological limit value (BLV) for cadmium within 5 years of the latest CMD entering into force, which may be imposed more stringently in Member States, if desired. However, The UK’s Deputy Permanent Representative to the EU, Katrina Williams, was disappointed that the proposal did not suggest human biomonitoring (HBM) as an alternative, ‘wider range of monitoring techniques for cadmium’.

Last week, it was confirmed that the plenary of the Parliament had adopted a compromise amendment on cadmium, which commits the Commission to assess wider monitoring techniques in a shorter time frame (3 years rather than 5 years).[iii]

A Council Information Note stated that the Parliament’s position ‘reflects what had been previously agreed between the institutions’ and the Council ‘should therefore be in a position to approve the Parliament's position’.

However, the Council may still seek to reintroduce references to dermal and respiratory sensitisation of beryllium and formaldehyde in the annex to the revised CMD, before approving Parliament’s amendment and officially adopting OEL’s for the 5 carcinogenic substances, listed above.

Looking to the future, the firefighter’s network has invited the EU to consider extending the CMD in future iterations to cover reprotoxic substances, as well as carcinogens and mutagens. This request was inspired by recent study findings, which have shown that public authorities and employers are failing to sufficiently protect firefighters from occupational health risks experienced before, during and after incidents. It is part of a wider appeal to ‘recognise cancer among firefighters as a professional disease’. [iv]

Moreover, the Commission has asked the European Chemicals Agency (ECHA) to recommend OEL’s for lead and its compounds and diisocyanates, while the Council has inquired about the Commission’s appetite for widening the CMD to include hazardous drugs.[v]



[ii] Nick Hazlewood, ‘European Parliament committee backs third revision to CMD’ (27 November 2018 Chemical Watch) <> accessed 29 January 2019.

[iii] ‘European Parliament adopts amendment to third CMD revision’ (4 April 2019 Chemical Watch) <> accessed 8 April 2019.

[iv] Firefighters demand greater protection from exposure to carcinogens, mutagens and reprotoxics’ (4 February 2019 Fire Brigades Union) <> accessed 11 April 2019

[v] ‘Commission requests Echa OEL recommendations for lead, diisocyanates’ (21 March 2019 Chemical Watch) <> accessed 8 April 2019.