Carcinogenic, mutagenic and reprotoxic substances (CMRs) are chronically toxic and have very serious impacts on health. Over 30 million tonnes of CMRs are produced in Europe each year. The number of workers exposed to CMRs and the severity of effects call for coordinated scientific, technical and regulatory actions to be taken in order to protect health and improve working conditions. This OSHwiki article gives an overview of the classification and mechanism of action of different CMRs. It will guide you through EU legislation and give an overview of prevention measures.
In 2004, a survey carried out in France evaluated 50 potential reprotoxic substances scoring them for danger and exposure. The 10 highest scoring substances according to this method were: di(2-ethylhexyl)phthalate, benzyl butyl phthalate, dibutyl phthalate, cadmium, lead, hexachlorobenzene, toluene, nonylphenol, ethylene glycol ethyl ether and benomyl.
Carcinogenic, mutagenic and reprotoxic substances (CMRs) are often referred to as a group. Carcinogens are substances or mixtures that induce cancer or increase its incidence. A mutation means a permanent change in the amount or structure of the genetic material in a cell. Mutagens are agents that increase the occurrence of mutations. Many mutagenic substances are also carcinogenic, but not all. Agents that are reprotoxic are those that cause adverse effects on sexual function and fertility in males and females, developmental toxicity in offspring and effects through or via lactation. Data show that certain CMRs target certain organs (organs that are most affected), for instance nasal cancer is associated with exposure to chromium (VI) compounds, pleural mesothelioma with asbestos exposure and scrotal cancer with polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons such as benzo[a]pyrene from soot.