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ToxStrategies engineer warns of TSCA impact on OSHA

Dr. Bill Rish told an audience at the Ohio Chemistry Technology Council’s Annual Conference that risk evaluations conducted under the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA), as amended by the Lautenberg Chemical Safety Act, could produce differences between EPA and OSHA on acceptable chemical exposures. Dr. Rish’s presentationat the OCTC 30th Annual Conference on April 24th was titled, “The TSCA-fication of OSHA.” [View presentation here.]

EPA’s chemical safety determinations under TSCA now define workers as a “potentially exposed or susceptible subpopulation.” EPA and OSHA assess worker risks using different approaches to determine acceptable risk. In addition, some of OSHA’s risk assessments are outdated and did not use the latest toxicological factors. As the enforcement arm for TSCA, EPA may not consider compliance with OSHA’s permissible exposure limits (PELs) to result in acceptable risk. It is not unusual for an EPA risk calculation, assuming worker exposure at the OSHA PEL, to predict cancer risk beyond EPA’s acceptable range. In this situation, a business could fully comply with OSHA PELs to protect workers but be judged by EPA to not be protecting them enough.

Section 9 of TSCA gives the Administrator the ability take action beyond OSHA’s authority if EPA determines that doing so is in the public interest to protect against unreasonable risks. Meanwhile, labor unions have recently gone on record stating that OSHA regulations are outdated and inadequate to protect workers. Given this regulatory and political tension, there is an impending need to reconcile how these two regulatory programs protect worker health.

Will OSHA adopt new restrictions or lower occupational exposure limits developed by EPA? How do we communicate to workers in a situation where one program says you have been protected and another says that protection is not enough? Will companies be required to go beyond complying with OSHA PELs, perhaps requiring more extensive risk mitigation measures (e.g., constant use of respirators or highly vented areas)?

For more discussion on this impending challenge, please contact Dr. Bill Rish at