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ISSUE 57 page 7

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Unions: new electro-magnetic field directive ‘not up to scratch’
 AN EU HEALTH AND SAFETY DIRECTIVE that has been unusually held up for revision has not satisfied trade union experts now that it has appeared in draft form. The last of the other three directives on ‘physical agents’ was completed in 2005 but, although both the European Parliament and the Council of Ministers approved it in 2004, the implementation of the Electromagnetic Field (EMF) directive was delayed until 2012 by the European Commission (see Issue 41 page 7). The cause was a report from the U.K. that predicted that the use of Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) machines would be restricted by the directive’s limits on exposure of workers to EMF. As the technique is one of the main ways of detecting brain tumours and is carried out on about 8 milllion hospital patients a year in the EU the Commissioner was anxious to prevent it being curtailed. Now, following studies in four Member States and consultation with the international expert body the EU has come up with a revised
Trade union reaction has not been favourable: apart from the further delay in implementation, which will now be completed in 2016 instead of 2008 as originally planned, the European Trade Union Confederation (ETUC) believes that the extra research that has been done has concentrated on short-term exposure only, that the revised limits are too complicated, and that exemptions from risk assessments in the armed forces and medical sector are too wide. On MRI in general the ETUC takes the view that medical progress cannot be made at the expense of the health of the workers that operate the technology and detects the hand of lobbyists for the manufacturers in the proposals for this sector. It also draws attention to the fact that the four-country study showed that exposure limits were regularly being exceeded and that similar radiation from mobile ‘phones was recently recommended for classification as ‘possibly carcinogenic to humans’.

A Magnetic Resonance Imaging machine
directive which raises the exposure limits and gives a conditional exemption to MRI.



Danish airport workers take Green workplace initiative
FOLLOWING OUR ARTICLE ON the trade union push for green workplaces (see last issue) workers at Copenhagen airport have started a campaign to reduce particle pollution at their workplace. Preliminary results from a survey done in 2010 indicated that the level of particles in the air was four times higher at the apron of the airport than on a nearby highway reckoned to be the most polluted in the city. Danish unions 3F, VSL and the Metalworkers have got together under the slogan ‘Project Clean Air’ to negotiate with airport employers and the large companies that use it with the aim of shutting down engines, installing ‘green’ equipment, minimising the use of auxilary power units and ensuring measurement of pollution. In addition they want to involve the Danish Working Environment Service, a government body that supervises workplaces and have engaged  an expert from the Ecological Council to help with interpretation of reports, presentations at members' meetings and international contacts. Unions say their aim is not to ‘phase out the airport’ but to enable the development of a healthier and greener working environment.


Most EU countries to miss Batteries Directive targets

THE EU BATTERIES DIRECTIVE WAS PASSED in 2006 with the aim both of reducing the amounts of toxic substances such as mercury and cadmium in their manufacture and recycling more batteries as a whole. The law set minimum targets for all Member States that 25% of all waste batteries must be recycled by next year and 45% by 2016. Now leaked figures from the industry allegedly show that many countries will not reach the target while in the UK the government Environment Agency has suggested that around 10% of batteries were recycled in 2010 to meet an informal ‘staging point’ on the road to meeting the EU target. This leaves a lot of ground to make up before the 2012 deadline but, according to the leak, only a very few countries such as Belgium and Germany will hit the 2016 target. One of the problems has been the closure of re-cycling plants due to the economic slump. Nonetheless the EU Commission intends to launch infringement proceedings against any Member State that has not reached 25% by September 26th.

UK recycling: 2002, 0.2%; 2010, 10%


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