Protecting workers against lead and diisocyanates: Council signs off on new limit values

For the first time in 40 years, the EU has revisited the limit values for occupational exposure to lead and its inorganic compounds, by reducing them fivefold. These reprotoxic substances can affect sexual function and fertility, and they may also damage the nervous system, among other things.

In addition, the directive is the first-ever EU legislation to set limit values for diiosocyanates, a group of harmful substances to which 4.2 million workers are currently exposed and which can cause asthma and dermal diseases.

The adopted directive revises the limit values for lead as follows:

  • occupational exposure limit from 0.15 milligrammes per cubic metre (0.15mg/m3) to 0.03mg/m3, and
  • biological limit value from 70 microgram per 100 millilitres of blood (70µg/100ml) to 15µg/100ml (30 µg/100ml until 2028)

Lead accumulates in the bones and is released slowly into the circulatory system. Therefore, according to the adopted directive, workers who have high blood lead levels due to exposure which occurred before the transposition of this directive will undergo regular medical surveillance. They will be able to continue working with lead if their blood lead levels exhibit a declining trend.

To protect against the reprotoxic effects of lead, lower limit values (4.5 µg/100 ml) for medical surveillance measures will apply as regards female workers of childbearing age.

The directive also introduces limit values for diisocyanates:

  • overall occupational exposure limit of 6µg NCO/m3 (10 µg/m3 until 2028)
  • short-term exposure limit of 12µg NCO/m3 (20 µg/m3 until 2028)

Next steps

The directive will now be signed and published in the Official Journal of the EU. It will enter into force on the twentieth day following publication.

Member states will have two years to establish the new limit values and further protective measures set in the directive, by adapting their national legislation. 

Source: Council of the EU | Press Releases (