Towards a harmonized risk-based approach for OELs in the EU for carcinogens without a threshold
September 9, 2021, the Dutch SER Subcommittee for Occupational Exposure Limits for Substances in the Workplace (SER-GSW) finalized in her meeting the position paper “Towards a harmonized risk-based approach for OELs in the EU for carcinogens without a threshold” for broad dissemination.
An important message in this paper is a plea for harmonization of setting Occupational Exposure Limits (OELs) for this special group of substances. Many EU countries have different approaches creating undesired differences in the level of OELS and the risk workers may run. The principle of a level playing field and equal treatment of EU workers may be in danger here.
The core of the discussion is the acceptance of a very limited risk on cancer by exposure to these substances during a lifetime work exposure of 8 hours per day. The accepted risk is different for each EU country. The position paper explains the risk-based approach in general, with its advantages and disadvantages. In an annex approaches of a few countries are compared.
Setting OELs for carcinogens without a threshold is a precise process, which has not been harmonized (yet) in the EU. In The Netherlands and in a few other countries this process is based on an assessment of actual risk that workers in relevant sectors run at exposure. The Dutch Health Council prepares a scientific assessment and in the SER-GSW a feasible OEL is derived from discussions with social partners.