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News Release USDL: 96-447
Thursday, October 24, 1996
Contact: Lola DeGroff, or Susan Hall Fleming, (202) 219-8151

Using Joint Recommendations Of Labor And Industry, OSHA Cuts Permissible Exposure Limit For Cancer-Causing Butadiene 1000-Fold

Almost 10,000 workers will be better protected from cancer under a new standard for exposure to the chemical 1-3 butadiene announced today by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA).

The agency today reduced the permissible exposure limit (PEL) for 1,3-butadiene (BD) from 1,000 parts per million parts of air (ppm) to 1 ppm to reduce workers' risk of developing cancer and other potential adverse health effects. About 9,700 workers at 255 facilities nationwide are potentially exposed to BD.

Butadiene is a colorless, odorless, flammable and highly reactive gas. In 1991, the U.S. produced 3.0 billion pounds of BD. About 60 percent is used in rubber manufacture. In addition to presenting an increased risk of such cancers as leukemia, BD has been shown to increase risk to the reproductive system of laboratory animals. About 7,600 workers face significant exposures, averaging as high as 10 ppm. (No U.S. workers are likely to be exposed at OSHA's former PEL of 1000 ppm.) Compliance with the BD standard is expected to cost employers about $2.9 million per year.

The final standard, which is expected to prevent at least 79 cancer deaths over a 45-year working lifetime, also includes a 15-minute short-term exposure limit (STEL) of 5 ppm and an action level of 0.5 ppm. Other provisions cover employee training, medical surveillance, record keeping, hazard communication and exposure monitoring.

A unique feature of the standard is an exposure goal program, which encourages employers to reduce exposures to below the action level. "This is important because it will provide increased protection," said Assistant Secretary of Labor for Occupational Safety and Health Joseph A. Dear. "With the exposure goal program, employers will be striving to lower exposures even further as technology advances."

OSHA's action follows its receipt in January 1996 of joint labor-management recommendations to reduce butadiene exposure levels. These came from the United Steelworkers of America (USW), which included through merger the 95,000 members of what formerly was the United Rubber Workers; the International Institute of Synthetic Rubber Producers (IISRP) and the Chemical Manufacturers Association (CMA) Olefins Panel. On March 8, 1996, the agency reopened the rulemaking record on butadiene to consider comments on whether OSHA should base its final standard on provisions outlined in the recommendation, particularly the lower PEL, STEL and action level. OSHA received 18 comments by April 26, 1996, when the comment period closed.

"The groundwork laid by the labor-management agreement gives us both a more protective standard and a stronger scientific underpinning for our regulation," Dear said. "Further, because the standard is based on the agreement and supported by both workers and their employers, we are confident the provisions are practical, and the protections will be put in place."

On August 10, 1990, OSHA had proposed an eight-hour time-weighted average exposure limit of 2 ppm for 1,3-butadiene with a 10 ppm short-term exposure limit. The proposal also included an "action level" of 1 ppm with requirements for medical surveillance and training. The agency held hearings in January and February 1991 and received post-hearing comments until February 10, 1992.

An epidemiologic study submitted to OSHA by the synthetic rubber industry in late 1995 demonstrated an excess risk of cancer among workers exposed to 1,3-butadiene. OSHA's earlier cancer estimates, relying on mouse studies, were in line with the actual findings for workers presented by the industry. Based on the mouse studies, these lifetime risk estimates ranged from 1.3 to 8.1 cancer deaths per 1,000 workers exposed at 1 ppm BD.

The standard includes four informational appendices covering employee information and training, technical information on BD, medical screening and surveillance issues and OSHA's sampling and analytical method and a mandatory appendix on respirator fit- testing procedures.

The 23 states and two territories with their own OSHA-approved occupational safety and health plans must adopt a comparable 1,3-butadiene standard within six months. These jurisdictions included: Alaska, Arizona, California, Connecticut (state and local government employees only), Hawaii, Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, Nevada, New Mexico, New York (state and local government employees only), North Carolina, Oregon, Puerto Rico, South Carolina, Tennessee, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, the Virgin Islands, Washington, and Wyoming. Until state standards are adopted, federal OSHA will provide interim enforcement assistance for BD.

The new 1,3-butadiene standard is expected to appear in the Federal Register shortly.

(NOTE TO EDITORS: A fact sheet providing highlights of the new standard is attached.)

Highlights of OSHA 1,3-Butadiene Standard

1,3-butadiene (BD) is a colorless, highly flammable, reactive gas. Domestic production totalled 3.0 billion pounds in 1991. It is a probable human carcinogen believed to increase the risk of leukemia, lung tumors and possibly other cancers as well as possible reproductive harm. Approximately 9,700 workers are potentially exposed to BD, with 7,600 facing significantly high exposures.

Scope and Effective Dates--covers all occupational exposures; mixtures with less than 0.1% butadiene are excluded. Storage, transportation, distribution or sale of BD in sealed pipelines is excluded except for labeling and emergency response requirements. Most provisions take effect in 180 days, except employers have two years to implement engineering controls and three years to establish the exposure goal program.

Exposure Limits--8-hour time-weighted average (TWA) permissible exposure limit (PEL of 1 part BD per million parts air (ppm); short-term exposure limit (STEL) of 5 ppm over a 15-minute period; and an action level of 0.5 ppm.

Exposure Monitoring--mandates monitoring every 12 months if samples register at or above the action level but at or below both the PEL and the STEL; every three months if above the PEL or the STEL for eight samples within a two-year period, then every six months. Initial monitoring (or similar monitoring conducted within the two years before the effective date of the monitoring requirement) must be completed within 60 days after the effective date of the standard or the introduction of BD into the workplace. If the initial monitoring is below the action level or objective data indicate exposures below the action level and at or below the STEL, no further monitoring would be necessary unless there is a change in production, control equipment, personnel or work practices that might alter exposures. Additional monitoring needed for spills, leaks, ruptures or breakdowns.

Employees to have opportunity to observe exposure monitoring with employer provision of any needed protective gear. Affected workers to receive notification of monitoring results within 5 business days of employer receipt and notice of corrective action within 15 business days after learning that exposures exceed PEL or STEL.

Regulated Areas--calls for employer to set aside and mark areas wherever airborne exposures exceed PEL or STEL to limit access to authorized persons only. At multi-employer worksites, must notify other employers of hazard.

Methods of Compliance--requires employer to use feasible engineering and work practice controls to achieve PEL and STEL or reduce exposures as much as possible. Respirators used for supplemental protection. Written compliance plan, revised every 12 months, for situations involving exposures over the PEL or STEL. Plan to include schedule for developing and implementing engineering and work practice controls. Employee rotation prohibited to comply with PEL/STEL.

Exposure Goal Program--calls for employers to develop written goals to reduce exposures to below the action level during normal operations, updated as necessary. Must include leak prevention, detection and repair; local exhaust ventilation maintenance; pump exposure control technology; gauging devices; unloading devices; and engineering controls for control rooms.

Respiratory Protection--to be used during installation of engineering controls, in nonroutine work operations performed infrequently with limited duration exposures and where engineering controls are insufficient. Employer must provide NIOSH-approved respirators and ensure proper fit and use in line as outlined in the company's respirator program. Employees must be allowed to leave regulated are to wash their faces and respirator facepieces to prevent skin irritation or to change filters as needed.

Protective Clothing--requires employer to provide protective clothing, where necessary to prevent eye contact and limit dermal exposure.

Emergency Situations--prescribes a written plan in line with requirements in OSHA's fire protection and hazardous waste standards.

Medical Screening and Surveillance--mandates an annual medical screening for (1) all employees exposed at or above the action level for 30 days or more; (2) employees exposed for 10-29 days at or above the PEL or STEL; (3) employees who have had exposure at or above the PEL or STEL 30 or more days a year for 10 or more years; (4) employees who have had exposures at or above the action level for 60 or more days a year for 10 or more years; (5) employees exposed above 10 ppm on 30 or more days in any past year; and (6) employees exposed to BD following an emergency situation (within 48 hours). Medical surveillance: employer is to review aggregate medical screening data to explore whether the health of employee population is adversely affected by exposure to BD.

Physical exams to be performed by physician or other licensed health care professional who is to be provided a copy of the BD standard and detailed information about the employee's duties and exposures along with information on protective equipment used and information from previous medical evaluations, if available. Exams to take place at reasonable time and place, without cost or loss of pay to employee.

Covered employees will fill out a health questionnaire each year that includes a comprehensive occupational and health history with particular emphasis on blood and skin. They will undergo a complete blood count annually with tests conducted by an accredited laboratory. Employees will receive exams initially; before taking on duties involving BD exposure; every 3 years after initial exam; additionally as recommended by the physician or licensed health care professional; when transferred to another job not involving BD exposure; and upon termination, if more than 12 months have elapsed since the last physical. Exams will focus particularly on the liver, spleen, lymph nodes and skin and may include additional tests deemed necessary by the health professional conducting the exam, and employees may be referred to specialists for further evaluation. The health care professional conducting the evaluation must provide a written opinion to the employer.

Hazard Communication--calls for initial and annual training in line with OSHA's hazard communication standard.

Record keeping--specifies that objective data used in place of monitoring exposures be maintained. Records of monitoring to be kept for 30 years, respirator fit test records maintained until the next fit test, medical screening and surveillance records to be kept for the duration of employment plus 30 years.

Archive Notice - OSHA Archive

NOTICE: This is an OSHA Archive Document, and may no longer represent OSHA Policy. It is presented here as historical content, for research and review purposes only.

OSHA News Release - (Archived) Table of Contents

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