Objectives To assess potential compliance costs and socio-economic benefits of potential future changes to the Carcinogens Directive for 25 substances.
Methods Drawing upon estimates of occupational exposure and health impact assessment, economic impacts of exposure due to disability and death were estimated under a ‘do nothing’ scenario. The value of disability and deaths avoided through possible reduced workplace concentrations were estimated based on value of life years lost, cost of illness and willingness to pay to avoid cancer.
Compliance costs of meeting possible amendments to the directive (stricter occupational exposure limits) based on the likely risk management measures needed in the workplace, were estimated for each relevant industry sector. This allowed key costs and benefits to be compared.
Results It was possible to quantitatively estimate both compliance costs and benefits in terms of reduced cancer impacts for around half of the 25 substances. These, along with other socio-economic indicators of the potential impacts of further controlling workplace exposure were presented in a form intended to be compatible with an EU “Impact Assessment”, which is required for any major new change in policy.
There are substantial uncertainties in any assessment such as this, including in approaches and data for valuing health impacts; numbers of people/firms affected; compliance methods and associated costs; amongst others.
Conclusions Assigning monetary values to the avoidance of cancer (and other health and environmental impacts) remains a controversial area. Nonetheless, the data developed during this study at least provide indications of the relative merits of targeting certain substances over others for possible future workplace exposure limits, based on a comparison of cancer avoided (and associated socio-economic benefit) with the compliance costs for affected industry. Given the large methodological uncertainties involved, the results are of most use in cases where the difference between costs and benefits is most pronounced.
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