European Federation of Food, Agriculture and Tourism Trade Unions
Together for decent work and fair pay from farm to fork



Occupational cancer kills 100,000 people every year in the European Union. It is the most common work-related cause of death. 

  • Between 8 and 16% of all cancers in Europe are the result of exposure at work; 
  • Almost 1 in 5 workers in the EU are routinely exposed to carcinogens;
  • Around 50 known cancer-causing substances account for more than 80% of all workplace exposure to carcinogens;

The 2004 EU Directive on Carcinogens or mutagens at work sets binding workplace exposure limits for only 3 substances.

This Directive has been under review for the last 12 years without any change whatsoever, leaving workers in Europe without the protection they need from known causes of cancer.

The European Trade Union Confederation (ETUC)and the European Trade Union Federations are calling on the EU to stop stalling, and to take action to end workplace cancer.   

The Dutch Presidency of the EU, which runs January-June 2016, has committed in its Programme to “press for work-related cancer to be combatted by expanding workers’ protection against a wider range of carcinogens” and to this end “amending the Carcinogens Directive.”  

The European Trade Union Confederation (ETUC) and fellow ETUFs are now calling on the Dutch Presidency to

  • fulfil its promise
  •  set workplace exposure limits for 50 of the common causes of occupational cancer.

To help the Dutch Presidency achieve its promise, the ETUC is

  • Publishing the list of 50 carcinogens for which it demands workplace exposure limits
  • Calling on the European Commission to implement these limits by the end of 2016 rather than the proposed date of 2020.

“Occupational cancer is the ignored epidemic. Workers are dying, literally in the thousands every year, and for 12 long years the EU has done nothing about it. These deaths are the result of preventable workplace exposures” said Esther Lynch, Confederal Secretary of the ETUC.

EFFAT represents millions of agricultural workers that are exposed every day to a variety of chemical, physical, and biological hazards in the process of cultivating and harvesting crops.

EFFAT has just recently initiated its campaign to replace Glyphosate, the world’s most used weedkiller. Despite World Health Organisation (WHO) cancer warnings, Glyphosate might receive a further 15 years licence in Europe and endanger workers.

Harald Wiedenhofer EFFAT's Secretary General said: “In the advanced  European Union, occupation exposure needs to become a political priority. Being the voice of almost 7 million agricultural workers in Europe, we simply cannot afford to see people die for the job they are doing. Nor should the EU”.

For more information:

ETUI report on Carcinogens that should be subject to binding limits on workers’ exposure


EFFAT is the European Federation of Food, Agriculture and Tourism Trade Unions. As a European Trade Union Federation representing 120 national trade unions from 35 European countries, EFFAT defends the interests of more than 22 million workers towards the European Institutions, European employers’ associations and transnational companies. EFFAT is a member of the ETUC and the European regional organisation of the IUF.