August 26, 2021

European Chemicals Agency to Assess Potential Exposure Limits for Cobalt

The European Chemicals Agency (ECHA) seeks evidence related to the scientific evaluation of occupational exposure limits for cobalt, a metal used in many industries, and inorganic cobalt compounds. Workers at risk of being exposed to cobalt include those who work in metal mining, workers involved in the production or use of cutting or grinding tools, and workers at nuclear or irradiation facilities, NIOSH’s website explains. The Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry warns that exposure to high levels of cobalt can result in lung and heart effects as well as dermatitis.

According to ECHA, the European Commission has tasked the agency with evaluating exposure to cobalt and its inorganic compounds to assess the option of an airborne occupational exposure limit, other limit values such as biological limit values and biological guidance values, and notations. ECHA intends to use the information it gathers on uses, exposure, health effects, toxicology, epidemiology, and modes of action of cobalt and inorganic cobalt compounds to help the agency draft a report related to exposure limits for cobalt in the workplace. ECHA’s call for evidence provides stakeholders an opportunity to express their views and concerns while the agency is in the early phases of developing its scientific report on OELs for cobalt. The deadline for comments is Nov. 19, 2021.

ECHA’s Committee for Risk Assessment provides opinions on OELs under the Carcinogens and Mutagens Directive, which sets maximum concentrations for cancer-causing chemicals in workplace air, and the Chemical Agents Directive, which covers risks related to chemical agents at work. A table on the agency’s website summarizes ECHA’s work related to OELs.

More information and resources related to cobalt can be found on NIOSH’s website.