Issues Final Standard on Hexavalent Chromium
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) published
a final standard for occupational exposure to hexavalent chromium
this week, reducing the acceptable levels of workplace exposure
of hexavalent chromium from 52 micrograms per cubic meter of air
to 5 micrograms per cubic meter of air.
Hexavalent chromium is used in a number of industries, including
metal fabrication for the construction industry. According to the
Associated Press, an estimated 558,000 workers, from welders to
steelworkers and others, are exposed to its airborne particles that
have been linked to lung cancer.
The new requirement "substantially reduces the significant
health risks" for employees exposed to the material, said Jonathan
Snare, acting assistant secretary for OSHA.
In a conference call with reporters, Snare said the 5-microgram
permissible exposure level, or PEL, "is the lowest level that
is feasible both technologically and economically." He said
the standard would cost industry $282 million a year to implement.
Considering the massive amount of products produced annually for
commercial construction projects, what impact will this new standard
have on those companies serving the industry?
"It's certainly going to help our members because hexavalent
chromium is a high carcinogen," said Dan Penskie, health and
safety manager for International Union of Painters and Allied Trades
(IUPAT). "We didn't get it [the new requirement] down to 1
microgram per cubic meter, which would be perfect," he said,
adding "I don't know if we will ever get it down to 1 microgram
per cubic meter. I think we will always be fighting to lower all
standards to protect members and their families."
Penskie said that with exposure levels being lowered, protection
can be given to the association's members through engineering controls.