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2249. PERMISSIBLE EXPOSURE LIMITS (PELS) FOR AIR CONTAMINANTS
Priority: Economically Significant. Major under 5 USC 801.
Unfunded Mandates: This action may affect the private sector under PL 104-4.
Legal Authority: 29 USC 655 (b)
CFR Citation: 29 CFR 1910.1000; 29 CFR 1915.1000; 29 CFR 1917.1(a)(2)(ii); 29 CFR 1918.1(b)(a); 29 CFR 1926.55
Legal Deadline: None
Abstract: OSHA enforces hundreds of permissible exposure limits (PELs) for toxic air contaminants found in U.S. workplaces. Most of the air contaminant limits were adopted by OSHA in 1971 from recommendations issued by the American Conference of Governmental Industrial Hygienists and the American National Standards Institute. These PELs, which have not been updated since 1971, thus reflect the results of research conducted in the 1950s and 1960s. Since then, much new information has become available that indicates that, in many cases, these early limits are outdated and insufficiently protective of worker health.
OSHA believes that establishing a rulemaking approach that will permit the Agency to update existing air contaminant limits and establish new ones as toxicological evidence of the need to do so becomes available is a high priority. OSHA published (61 FR 1947) the name of the 20 substances from which the proposed new PELs for the first update were chosen: carbon disulfide, carbon monoxide, chloroform, dimethyl sulfate, epichlorohydrin, ethylene dichloride, glutaraldehyde, n-hexane, 2-hexanone, hydrazine, hydrogen sulfide, manganese and compounds, mercury and compounds, nitrogen dioxide, perchloroethylene, sulfur dioxide, toluene, toluene diisocyanate, trimellitic anhydride, and vinyl bromide. The specific hazards associated with the air contaminants preliminarily selected for regulation include cancer, neurotoxicity, respiratory and skin irritation and sensitivity, and cardiovascular disease, etc. For this first stage in the current rulemaking process, OSHA has decided to propose new PELs for four chemicals - carbon disulfide, glutaraldehyde, hydrazine, and trimellitic anhydride - that have different adverse health effects, both carcinogenic and non-carcinogenic, requiring different risk assessment approaches. For these four chemicals, OSHA has modified or developed new quantitative risk assessment approaches for cancer, respiratory sensitization and irritation, cardiovascular disease and neurotoxicity effects. Publication of the proposal will allow OSHA to continue to develop a mechanism for updating and extending its air contaminant limits, that will, at the same time, provide added protection to many workers who are currently being overexposed to toxic substances in the workplace.
Regulatory Flexibility Analysis Required: No
Government Levels Affected: Undetermined
Agency Contact: Marthe B. Kent, Acting Director, Directorate of Health Standards Programs, Department of Labor, Occupational Safety and Health Administration, Room N3718, 200 Constitution Avenue NW, FP Building, Washington, DC 20210
Phone: 202 693-1950
Fax: 202 693-1678
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