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French Agency for Food, Environmental and Occupational Health & Safety

Occupational exposure limit values for chemicals: ANSES issues calls for contributions from stakeholders

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News of 18/10/2012

18 october 2012

As one of its responsibilities in the area of occupational health, ANSES has been entrusted by the Ministry of Labour to conduct scientific assessments prior to the setting of occupational exposure limits (OELs) for certain chemicals. In order to contribute to the setting of these values, the Agency is issuing calls for contributions prior to and following the collective expert assessment work. Seven pre-assessment consultations and five post-assessment consultations have been launched today via ANSES's website.

Chemical risk prevention in the workplace is based primarily on the replacing of a hazardous product with a non- or less-hazardous product (substitution) or, failing that, the reduction of pollutant concentrations to the lowest possible levels. However, for a large number of hazardous chemical agents, it is necessary to set concentration levels for pollutants in workplace air which should not be exceeded over a specific reference period. For this, ANSES is in charge of conducting scientific assessments prior to the setting of these occupational exposure limits (OELs) by the Ministry of Labour.

A dedicated expert committee is in charge of recommending concentration levels (atmospheric and biological) based on health assessments as well as on measurement methods for comparing professional exposures to suggested values. Based on these recommendations, the Ministry of Labour then sets binding or indicative regulatory limit values after consultation with the French Steering Committee on Working Conditions (COCT), which is a tripartite committee.

As part of its commitment to broad stakeholder involvement in expertise work, ANSES has set up two types of calls for contributions - prior to and following this work - which are intended to support and aid in the scientific process of setting these values. In this way, the Agency is also providing a response to the wishes expressed by its Thematic Orientations Advisory Group on Occupational Health.

Pre-expertise consultation

The aim of this consultation phase is to gather any scientific data that has not yet been published or which is considered useful by the Agency for conducting its expertise work for OEL recommendations.

The type of data expected from this pre-expertise call for contributions includes the following:

  • information on the health effects of the substances targeted by the consultation (studies which are not yet published but for which publication is possible, studies currently in progress, etc.);
  • the measurement methods implemented for assessing professional exposure levels for these substances;
  • the biological exposure indicators implemented for the health monitoring of workers.

Ten consultations of this type are currently open, on the following topics:

  • dusts without specific effects (without any effects other than lung overload), consultation open through 20 December 2012;
  • octamethylcyclotetrasiloxane, consultation open through 20 December 2012;
  • decamethylcyclopentasiloxane, consultation open through 20 December 2012;
  • cobalt combined with tungsten carbide, consultation open through 20 December 2012;
  • oxygen (to recommend a minimum value for oxygen in the workplace, for the prevention of hypoxia), consultation open through 18 March 2013;
  • crystalline silica, consultation open through 18 March 2013;
  • hexamethylene diisocyanate (HDI), consultation open through 18 March 2013;
  • toluene diisocyanate (TDI), consultation open through 18 March 2013;
  • diphenylmethane diisocyanate (MDI), consultation open through 18 March 2013;
  • isophorone diisocyanate (IPDI), consultation open through 18 March 2013.

Post-expertise consultation

The aim of this second type of consultation is to enable interested parties to share their comments regarding the scientific data collected for and used in the expertise work, and to express their positions regarding application of the available data, prior to publication of the Agency's finalised reports and opinions.

The main objectives of this post-expertise consultation phase are the following:

  • to identify any important publications or scientific data that was not taken into account;
  • to collect any comments on the interpretation of the available data;
  • to collect any information that might help improve and develop the methodology used by the Agency for establishing and measuring occupational exposure limits for chemicals.

The first collective expert assessment reports conducted in the context of this call for contributions are the following:

· For atmospheric exposure limit value recommendations:

  • trichloroethylene,
  • 2-ethoxyethanol (EGEE) and 2-ethoxyethyl acetate (EGEEA),
  • cobalt and its compounds, excluding cobalt combined with tungsten carbide;

· For biological exposure limit value recommendations:

  • di(2-ethylhexyl)phthalate (DEHP);
  • acrylamide.

This first post-expertise call for contributions for these five expert assessment reports will be open through PN5GI0.htm.

For information, the Ministry of Labour has requested that ANSES organise the independent and collective scientific expert assessment phase which will enable it to set OELs within the framework of French regulatory legislation. Insofar as the Agency is only in charge of the scientific assessment aspects, no comments regarding technical and financial feasibility aspects will be taken into account or examined in this call for contributions.

Find out more

> Our close-up on OELs