Community Research and Development Information Service - CORDIS

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  • Fourth medical research programme (ECSC) "Effects on the health of workers of physical and other occupational factors at the workplace", 1982-1986

Successor programme


Programme funding

EUR 9 million
To broaden the scope of experimental and epidemiological research to all harmful agents in the working environment and individual sensitivity factors through epidemiological surveys taking into account not only identified and quantified agents but also the complex physical, chemical and climatic factors which can combine to produce effects which differ according to individual receptivity and reaction; to give special attention to cancers and particularly to their early detection through research into the carcinogenicity of atmospheric pollutants in the ECSC industries, taking all related pollutants and climatic factors into account.


Pursuant to Article 55 of the Treaty establishing the European Coal and Steel Community (ECSC), the Commission is required to promote technical and economic research relating to occupational safety in the coal and steel industries. The funds for this aid are derived from levies imposed on the production of coal and steel as provided for in Article 49 of the ECSC Treaty.

This fourth medical research programme was a natural continuation of earlier programmes dating back to 1956. The first programme, on silicosis and pneumoconiosis in coal miners, resulted in a better knowledge of the pathogenesis, radiological aspects, complications and repercussions of these diseases. The second programme focused on chronic bronchitis and emphysema, which may accompany pneumoconiosis or develop independently. The third programme focused both on pneumoconiosis and on chronic bronchitis and emphysema. As a follow-up of previous programmes in the field, the fourth programme broadened its scope to cover, in ECSC undertakings, physical and other occupational factors at the workplace and problems associated with technological developments in production, processing and the use of products. One of the programme's major achievements was the updating of the ECSC questionnaire on chronic bronchitis and pulmonary emphysema drawn up in 1967.


- Studies relating to the health and working conditions of workers in coal mines and iron mines, in coking plants and in the iron and steel sector:
. Biological processes, including individual factors, responsible for the appearance and development of emphysema and chronic bronchitis;
. Standardization and implementation of workplace tests conducted for the early diagnosis of chronic bronchitis and emphysema;
. Evaluation of techniques and of the results of various preventive and therapeutic measures applied to persons suffering from respiratory diseases in their early stages;
. Evaluation of the results of function tests at rest and during exercise with a view to determining working capacity;
. Preparatory research into cardiovascular disease and its effect on manpower, skin diseases and diseases of the vertebral column;

- Studies relating specifically to workers in the iron and steel sector and in coking plants:
. Epidemiological studies of the main causes of disease and death in the iron and steel industry and in coking plants;
. Study and prevention of the specific health risks, including the risk of bronchopulmonary cancer, associated with certain characteristic operations in the iron and steel industry and in coking plants;
. Identification of the hazards associated with potentially harmful substances such as nickel, chromium and other substances used in alloys;

- Research relating specifically to coal and iron miners:
. Study of the causes of respiratory insufficiency which is responsible for disability;
. Epidemiological studies of the main causes of disease and death in coal miners and iron miners, and their relationship with working conditions (gases, fumes, temperature humidity, air currents etc.);
. Study of the contribution of silica, other dusts, and exogenous and endogenous co-factors to the abnormally rapid appearance and development of simple pneumoconiosis and massive progressive pneumoconiosis;
. Validation, at Community level, of the ILO international classification of radiographs of the pneumoconiosis.


The Commission was responsible for the implementation of the programme, advised by a Committee of Scientific Experts, a Committee of Government Experts, and the Committee of Producers and Workers on Industrial Safety and Medicine. During the research, working parties chaired by Commission representatives and assisted by the scientific committee met regularly and distributed the interim results to scientific and professional bodies. The research institutes having received Community financial aid during the programme were required to make their research findings available to the Commission and the scientific committee with a view to dissemination and practical application. Community aid covered a portion of the costs of projects, the beneficiary meeting the remainder.
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