From today’s date, millions of workers (mostly women) in Europe will be protected for the first time by EU and national law from the impact of regular exposure in the workplace to potentially life-threatening hazardous drugs – hazardous medicinal products (HMPs) – that are used to treat patients with cancer and other major health conditions.

The European Biosafety Network has today published a White Paper setting out the requirements of the new EU law for employers and national governments and what it means in practice for millions of workers and professionals engaged in healthcare, social care and veterinary practice.

Nurses are by far the largest single occupational group that is exposed to HMPs at 40%, followed by technicians at 11% and pharmacists. However, at present nurses are usually less likely to be protected from occupational exposure to HMPs. Studies show that hospital workers who handle these hazardous drugs (HMPs) are three times more likely to develop malignancy and that nurses are twice as likely to miscarry.

The European Trade Union Institute estimates that there are up to 12.7 million workers in healthcare, social care and veterinary practice at risk of exposure in Europe.

In March 2022, the EU confirmed that HMPs are included in the scope of the new Carcinogens, Mutagens and Reprotoxic substances Directive (CMRD) 2022. All EU Member States are required to transpose all the legal requirements and prevention measures of CMRD 2022 into their national legislation by 5 April 2024.

The new EU law requires the use of closed systems in healthcare to reduce and prevent contamination and occupational exposure.  Hospital pharmacists across Europe believe that CSTDs offer the most effective way to protect workers from potential exposure to HMPs and when used in combination with BSCs and isolators.

Currently, automation and robotics in the compounding and preparation of HMPs is revolutionising the safety, quality and efficiency in handling HMPs and preventing occupational exposure but it is still not widely adopted and should be.

Today, all healthcare workers are potentially putting themselves at risk every day by doing their job in treating patients and they deserve our protection to avoid life changing health impacts.   This new EU law gives them that protection today so it needs to be implemented now and in the future to protect those that care for all of us.