August 9, 2022 / Kay Bechtold

The Monthly Weekly: Federal Agencies Tackle Lead and Other Hazards

Editor’s note:The Monthly Weekly is an occasional feature that reviews the previous month’s news coverage from The Synergist Weekly newsletter.

OSHA’s announcement at the end of June that it was beginning the rulemaking process to revise its standards for occupational exposure to lead quickly gained the attention of industrial hygienists and OEHS professionals; AIHA’s article covering that news is among the top three most-viewed news pages of the past month.

OSHA’s advance notice of proposed rulemaking (ANPRM) stems from recent medical research findings that adverse health effects in adults can occur at lower blood lead levels than those required by the agency’s current standards. In the words of Synergist columnist Frank Mirer, PhD, CIH, the lead standard for general industry, which was adopted in 1978, “was constrained by feasibility of engineering controls in the most difficult industry sector, smelters, as well as the health data of the time.” OSHA’s ANPRM seeks input from the public and stakeholders on reducing the current blood lead level triggers in the medical removal protection and medical surveillance provisions of its current lead standards for general industry and construction. Another area the agency seeks input on is whether it should consider reducing its current permissible exposure limit, which was also established in 1978. Comments on OSHA’s ANPRM are due by Aug. 29.

Over the past month, chemical and material hazards have also been the focus of other U.S. federal agencies, including EPA, NIOSH, and the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR). Following are highlights of these agencies’ recent efforts in this area.

Solvents. EPA proposes to find that three solvents—methylene chloride, perchloroethylene, and n-methylpyrrolidone—present “unreasonable [risks] of injury to human health” in draft revised risk determinations. The revised risk determinations incorporate policy changes announced by EPA in June 2021 concerning personal protective equipment, risk management, unreasonable risk determinations, and exposure pathways.

Flavoring compounds. A new skin notation profile for the flavoring compound diacetyl and its substitute, 2,3-pentanedione, was published recently by NIOSH. The substances carry the SEN and DIR (IRR) designations, which indicate that they may cause immune-mediated reactions and irritation following dermal exposure.

Acetone. A new final toxicological profile for acetone is available from ATSDR. According to the agency, workers in industries such as commercial painting, plastic manufacturing, household cleaning, and beauty salons may be exposed to higher levels of acetone in the air in the workplace.

Nanomaterials. Practical approaches for sampling engineered nanomaterials (ENMs) in the workplace are outlined in a new NIOSH technical report. ENMs, the report explains, are “a diverse group of materials that have at least one dimension in the size range of 100 nanometer (nm) or less.” ENMs are potentially hazardous because some substances have been found to be more toxic in microscale forms than at larger scales.

1-Bromopropane. In another recently released draft revised risk determination, EPA proposes to find that the volatile organic compound 1-bromopropane (1-BP), also known as n-propyl bromide, presents “an unreasonable risk of injury to human health.” 1-BP is used as a solvent in degreasing operations, spray adhesives, and dry cleaning; as a reactant in the manufacture of other chemical substances; and in laboratories. Examples of commercial and consumer products that contain 1-BP include spot cleaners, stain removers, aerosol degreasers, and insulation for building and construction materials.

Do you have feedback on our news coverage? Please share your comments here or send an email to The Synergist.

Kay Bechtold

Kay Bechtold is managing editor of The Synergist.


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