Side-effects of the REACH regulation on the development of directives on the protection of workers’ health

Paolo Pagliai, Patrizia Ferdenzi

Abstract


Occupational exposure limit values for both chemical agents and carcinogens are a key element in the actions taken by the European Commission to protect workers.

According to the provisions of the Chemical Agents Directive (98/24/EC) and the Carcinogens and Mutagens Directive (2004/37/EC), the limit values must be defined on the basis of an independent scientific evaluation of the most up-to-date scientific data available.

The European Commission has freedom of action in carrying out these tasks, but historically has always used the SCOEL.

Protection of workers from exposures to dangerous chemicals is significantly reinforced by the REACH Regulation which has led, inter alia, to the definition of new exposure threshold values also of professional type (DNEL and DMEL) obtained using approaches and methodologies developed by ECHA and not coinciding with those used by SCOEL.

This situation has led to the fact that in the professional context for the same substance the Companies must simultaneously comply with different exposure limit values according to the legislation to be applied (REACH or social legislation on the protection of workers), as for example in the case of N-methyl pyrrolidone.

The European Commission obliged ECHA and SCOEL to work together to solve the conflict or to submit a joint document to the Commission clarifying the scientific and/or technical points of conflict.

Given the substantial failure of the attempts to harmonize the different methodologies used by ECHA and SCOEL, the European Commission in a letter of 8/3/2017 sent to the Executive Director of ECHA writes: “The outcome of the work of the joint task force RAC and SCOEL on 1-methyl-2 pyrrolidone (NMP) has highlighted significant divergences in the working practices and, sometimes diverging, recommendations of the two Committees. Given the common function of such limit values in protecting workers, it is not considered practical or efficient to request both Committees to continue to work on the same chemical substances” andIn this regard, in view of the preparation of the third and fourth proposal for an amendment of Directive 2004/37/EC,….omissis… has decided to ask the advice of RAC to assess the scientific relevance of occupational exposure limits for some carcinogenic chemical substances”.

In short, the European Commission now seems to have decided to use a single scientific committee to define the occupational limit values: the Committee for Risk Assessment (RAC).

 


Keywords


Occupational limit values; European Commission; SCOEL; ECHA; RAC

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References


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Internal I(2015)0255 1 (2); 08-09-2015 : Note for the attention of Dr Tim Bowmer, Chairman of the Committee for Risk Assessment. Ref: Request to the Committee for Risk Assessment for a joint opinion of the Committee for Risk Assessment (RAC) and the Scientific Committee on Occupational Exposure Limits (SCOEL) to resolve the differences in scientific opinion as regards exposure levels for NMP.

EC Number: 212-828-1 :ECHA Committee for Risk Assessment (RAC) and Scientific Committee on Occupational Exposure Limits (SCOEL): Joint Opinion to resolve differences in scientific opinion as regards exposure levels for N-Methyl-2-Pyrrolidone. EC Number: 212-828-1 CAS Number: 872-50-4; 30 November 2016

GL/ps ARES env.b.2(2017)1407647, 08/03/2017: Note to the attention of Mr Geert Dancet, executive director, european chemicals agency (ECHA) Subject: Request to evaluate, in accordance with Directive 98/24/EC on the protection of the health and safety of workers from the risks related to chemical agents at work (CAD) and/or Directive 2004/37/EC on the protection of workers from the risks related to exposure to carcinogens or mutagens at work (CMD) the following chemical compounds: 4,4'-methylenebis[2-chloroaniline] (MOCA), arsenic acid and its inorganic salts, nickel and its compounds, acrylonitrile and benzene; European Commission Bruxelles, 2017

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