March 12, 2020

European Chemicals Agency to Assess OELs for Asbestos, Cadmium

The European Chemicals Agency seeks evidence related to the scientific evaluation of occupational exposure limits for asbestos and its properties and for cadmium and its inorganic compounds. ECHA intends to use the information it gathers on exposure, health effects, toxicology, and epidemiology of these substances to help the agency draft its reports related to exposure limits in the workplace. ECHA’s calls for evidence provide opportunities for stakeholders to express their views and concerns while the agency is in the early phases of developing its scientific reports on OELs for asbestos and cadmium. The deadline for comments is June 2, 2020.

ECHA will review the European Union’s current OEL for asbestos, which requires employers to ensure that workers are not exposed to airborne concentrations of asbestos above 0.1 fibers/cm3 as an 8-hour time-weighted average. The agency stresses that “any exposure to asbestos should be limited to the minimum.”

“While new uses of asbestos-containing products are already prohibited in the EU, due to the large amount of previously used asbestos products still in place, the preventive actions related to the safe handling of those products…will remain a priority for many years to come,” ECHA states in its call for comments regarding asbestos.

For cadmium and its inorganic compounds, the agency will assess options such as setting an airborne OEL or a combination of an airborne OEL and a biological monitoring value. ECHA will base its recommendations on these options’ potential effectiveness in protecting worker health.

Last year, ECHA announced that it will provide regular recommendations for OELs that protect workers exposed to hazardous substances. Under an agreement with the European Commission, ECHA is required to assess four to five OELs per year. The agency will prepare scientific dossiers proposing OEL values for chemicals 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.

More information about ECHA’s calls for comments and evidence concerning OELs is available on the agency’s website.