The risks from chemicals in the workplace are still poorly known. Yet a third of occupational disease claims recognized in Europe each year are due to exposure to hazardous substances. Workers mostly have no quick and easy way to access detailed information on the chemicals they use.
To help them, the European Trade Union Institute (ETUI) has joined with the Spanish Trade Union Institute Istas to develop the RISCTOX chemicals database. Workers can now access data cards through the ETUI website on 100,000-odd chemicals, many thousands of which can cause cancer, allergies, disrupt the hormonal system or put the reproductive system at risk.
Each card specifies the chemicals classification and labelling under the regulations, its main work uses (solvent, cleaner, paint stripper, etc.), how it affects health, and the occupational diseases it causes.
The information can be called up simply by entering either the chemical’s name or its identification number in the main international chemical inventories into a search box.
Of the 100,000 or so chemicals listed, the trade unions have identified nearly 570 as substances of very high concern (SVHC) for putting on their list of priority substances. These are chemicals commonly used in many workplaces that need priority treatment under REACH, the regulation governing the marketing and use of chemicals in the European Union.