ECHA Commits to Providing Recommendations for Occupational Exposure Limits

The European Chemicals Agency (ECHA) and the European Commission (EC) recently signed a formal agreement in which ECHA commits to providing recommendations for occupational exposure limits (OELs) for chemical substances on a steady basis. This obligates ECHA to evaluate four to five substances each year, and to provide OEL recommendations for them, beginning in 2020.

The agreement between ECHA and the EC comes after the second REACH Review by the EC. It also follows a pilot project, conducted by ECHA between 2017 and 2018, which yielded OEL recommendations for five substances:

  • 4,4'-methylene-bis[2-chloroaniline] (MOCA)
  • acrylonitrile
  • arsenic acid and its inorganic salts
  • benzene
  • nickel and its compounds

A Common Source of Information

With this new agreement, ECHA’s Risk Assessment Committee (RAC) assumes relevant responsibilities of the Directorate-General Employment's Scientific Committee on Occupational Exposure Limits (SCOEL). Recent analyses from a joint SCOEL-RAC task force revealed areas of overlap, principally in relation to EU occupational safety and health OELs (used to help limit levels of workplace exposure) and REACH's derived no-effect levels (DNELs) (i.e., the level of chemical exposure above which humans should not be subjected, and used in evaluating whether there is a sufficient level of risk control). The EC questioned the necessity of having two committees assessing the same chemical substances.

The reassigning of responsibilities, in this regard, signifies a logical step forward. It is also one that is likely to yield a positive outcome for the parties involved. Joost Korte, Commission Director-General for Employment, Social Affairs and Inclusion, noted the benefit of this effort, stating "I am very pleased that we now can rely on ECHA. Having one common source for scientific advice under REACH and the health and safety at work directives will ensure coherence and further transparency."

One of the first chemical substances in line for OEL assessment and recommendations is expected to be lead, as the EC has requested it as a first priority. It is probable that chemicals will be assigned to ECHA by the EC in the future. Once the assignment for a chemical has been received, several key steps must occur before the final decision can be made:

An ECHA working group creates an OEL proposal for the corresponding chemical substance.

ECHA sends the proposal to RAC.

RAC delivers its feedback on the proposal.

ECHA drafts its recommendation.

ECHA sends the recommendation to the EC for its decision.

For Additional OEL Information

Occupational exposure limits represent a very important tool in helping to prevent the adverse effects of workplace exposure to hazardous chemicals. To learn more about OELs, from a variety of sources and for a wide range of chemical substances, and to access more detailed information on individual substances, contact ToxPlanet and register for a Free Trial.