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Update on Cal/OSHA PELs
Ed Kanegsberg, SQRC

Cal/OSHA has established a new policy for determining recommended workplace exposure limits for airborne chemicals and has also named a panel of experts. Once approved, the Permissible Exposure Levels (PELs) developed by Cal/OSHA would be legally enforceable throughout California. One might expect the PELs to be utilized elsewhere in the U.S. Further, because the new policy indicates utilization of risk factors developed for a community exposure approach (similar to that used for Proposition 65), there is a reasonable potential for the new PELs to be significantly lower than those set by Federal OSHA or by nationally-recognized professional organizations such as AIHA. An initial meeting will be held on August 21.

The April issue of Green Files focused on the process that the Division of Occupational Safety and Health (DOSH), usually referred to as Cal/OSHA, has adopted for reviewing and establishing Permissible Exposure Levels (PELs). On June 19, the division held a public meeting to announce the members on the Health Expert Advisory Committee (HEAC), and to discuss a preliminary list of substances to be reviewed with a priority (ranging from 1 to 4) for each. Among the 15 members named to the HEAC is James Unmack, a member of the SQRC Technical Advisory Panel (please see related article).

The first meeting of the HEAC will take place on August 21, 2007 in Oakland, CA. It will be open to the public. At this first meeting it is expected that a review of the previous Airborne Contaminants Advisory Committee (ACAC) process for PEL recommendations will occur and be modified for the current HEAC process. In addition, a summary sheet format to be used for each substance to be analyzed by the HEAC will be developed. The summary sheet promises to provide a standardized format for dealing with complex issues of toxicology.

The chemicals selected for the first round of analysis will be named. Emphasis is likely to be on chemicals for which there is no current PEL at either the state or federal level and that appear on the Prop. 65 list.

One goal of the new PEL process is to assure transparency. A good way to achieve transparency is through attendance at the HEAC meetings, active listening, and communication. Most important is positive support for those involved in the exceedingly difficult task of evaluating complex toxicological studies.

A roster of HEAC members, the current PEL update priority chemicals list, and information about previous meetings can be found at .


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