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Lowering Exposure to Toxic Chemicals

Posted on Jan 7, 2010
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Pop Corn For years, Worksafe has actively pushed the OSH Standards Board to lower permissible exposure limits (PELs) for chemicals in the workplace as new evidence reveals the damage to workers from currently allowable exposure levels.

In December 2007, California EPA published a report (PDF) that identified over 100 under-regulated workplace chemicals that cause cancer and reproductive and/or developmental harm. Worksafe has been working steadily with health experts to fast-track the setting of standards for these chemicals, using available science developed by Cal/EPA and the California Hazard Evaluation System and Information Service (HESIS).

As slow and challenging as the PEL-setting process is we have achieved some successes over the years. In December 2009, the OSH Standards Board adopted new PELs for 12 chemicals. The stronger PELs that Worksafe and our allies fought for are more health-protective than the previous limits, including those for 1-Bromopropane and refractory ceramic fiber. The process continues for other chemicals that need strong standards. Click here for a table listing the current exposure limits, or for information about upcoming meetings and chemicals under consideration, click here. For the text of the regulation that governs how PELs are set in California, click here.

The PELs process is one of many mechanisms we use to protect workers from toxics. We also worked in 2009 to pass standards to control the butter-flavoring chemical, diacetyl, and chemicals known to irritate the skin or lungs, including those causing work-related asthma. Those skin and lung irritants are also known as sensitizers. You can read more about our work to regulate sensitizers here.

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