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Toxic chemicals:
little prevention or follow-up in France

In 2005 in France, around 2.5 million workers are reported to have been exposed to some 5 million tonnes of toxic chemical agents, with inadequate preventive measures or information.

Toxic chemicals are classed as carcinogenic agents if they cause or increase the frequency of cancers; mutagenic if they produce or increase the occurrence of hereditary genetic defects; reprotoxic if they affect reproduction or the progeny. Some 2.5 million workers have reportedly been exposed to such products in France.

Three surveys have been carried out on the use of these agents in the workplace in France since 2000. The biggest consumers of chemical agents are the chemicals and pharmaceuticals industries, and the manufacture of plastic materials and paints and varnishes, which account for around 5 million tonnes.

The automotive, metallurgy, timber and paper industries, mineral products and the construction sector are particularly exposed to carcinogenic agents, with 25% of workers very highly exposed for more than 10 hours a week.

These studies highlight the failure to implement regulatory preventive measures to reduce workers’ exposure such as substitution with a less toxic agent, collective and individual protection, identification, information and monitoring of exposed workers.

©Prescrire July 2008

Source: "Agents chimiques cancérogènes, mutagènes ou reprotoxiques utilisés en France" Rev Prescrire 2008 ; 28 (297) : 546-547.

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