May 19, 2022

EU Report Represents Next Step in Development of OELs for PAHs

A scientific report published last week by the European Chemicals Agency (ECHA) focuses on polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, or PAHs. ECHA’s report is part of the process for assessing the need for occupational exposure limits for PAHs in the European Union and is based on a scoping study that was intended to identify the most appropriate approach for monitoring different PAHs. The scoping study recommends benzo[a]pyrene, one example of a PAH, as a “suitable marker” of overall PAH exposure. ECHA’s report describes benzo[a]pyrene as a non-threshold carcinogen and explains that “it is not possible to derive a safe level” for biomonitoring markers for non-threshold carcinogen PAHs. The report does not propose an occupational exposure limit or biological limit value for PAHs but suggests a skin notation.

ECHA explains that its Committee for Risk Assessment will use the information contained in the report to develop an opinion on occupational limit values for PAHs. The Committee for Risk Assessment provides opinions on OELs under the EU’s 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.

CDC describes PAHs as a class of chemicals that occur naturally in coal, crude oil, and gasoline. According to CDC, people are typically exposed to mixtures of PAHs, and workers in industries or trades using or producing coal or coal products are at the highest risk for PAH exposure.

Interested stakeholders can submit comments related to ECHA’s report and the assessment of OELs for PAHs until July 11. The full report and further details on providing comments can be found on the ECHA website.