MEPs adopt new rules to limit exposure to harmful substances at the workplace 

Press Releases 
  • Rules for exposure to lead updated for the first time in 40 years 
  • Limit values for diisocyanates for first time ever 
  • Better protection for those working to ensure the green transition 

On Wednesday, Parliament adopted new exposure limit values for lead for the first time in forty years and for diisocyanates for the first time ever.

In the EU, approximately 50 000 to 150 000 workers are exposed to lead and 4.2 million workers to diisocyanates every year. The new law, already agreed with member states and adopted today with 589 votes in favour, 10 votes against and by 40 abstentions, will protect workers’ health more effectively by lowering exposure limits for these substances.

Both substances are widely used to renovate buildings and to produce batteries, wind turbines, and to make electric vehicle lighter. By limiting their exposure to these chemicals, the EU is protecting those working in the green transition.

Limit values for lead updated for the first time since 1982

Exposure to lead can affect women’s and men’s fertility and the development of the foetus. It can also damage the nervous system, the kidneys, and cause high blood pressure.

The new limits, updated for the first time since 1982, will be set at less than a quarter of the current values: the occupational exposure limit will be set at 0.03 mg/m3 and the biological limit value at 15 µg/100 ml.

The European Commission will have to revise these limits within five years to better protect female workers of childbearing age, taking into account the latest scientific data.

First time ever limit values for diisocyanates

Diisocyanates are harmful to workers’ health; they are one of the most common causes of occupational asthma and can cause allergic reactions.

The new law sets the occupational exposure limit for diisocyanates at 6 µg NCO/m3 (the maximum concentration that a worker can be exposed to during an eight-hour working day) and at 12 µg NCO/m3 for short-term exposure (i.e., a period of 15 minutes). The European Commission will review these limits by 2029.

Past exposure to lead

Some workers have been exposed to lead over several years and have accumulated blood-lead levels well above any new limit value. To protect the health of these workers more robustly, medical checks will have to be carried out regularly to see if they can continue tasks that involve exposure to lead.


Nikolaj Villumsen (The Left, DK), lead MEP on the file, said: “Today, we have delivered real and concrete results that will be felt by millions. It is not every day we can provide a better working environment for more than four million employees. In addition, it demonstrates how we can make sure the green transition is socially just - a true step forward in the protection of workers.”

Next steps

Council will have to formally endorse the text too, before its publication in the EU Official Journal and entry into force.