The purpose of occupational exposure limits values (OELs) is to regulate exposure to chemicals and minimize the risk of health effects at work. National authorities are responsible for the setting and updating of national OELs. In addition, the EU sets indicative occupational exposure limit values (IOELVs), which have to be considered by the Member States. Under the new European legislation on chemicals (REACH), manufacturers and importers are obliged to establish derived no-effect levels (DNELs) for chemicals that are manufactured or imported in quantities >10 tonnes per year. Chemical safety data sheets must report both OELs and the DNEL values, if such have been set. This may cause confusion at workplaces, especially if the values differ from each other. In this study, we explored how EU IOELVs and Finnish national OELs [Haitallisiksi tunnetut pitoisuudet (HTP) values] correlate with worker inhalation DNELs for substances registered under REACH. The long-term DNEL value for workers (inhalation) was identical to the corresponding IOELV for the majority of the substances (64/87 cases). Comparison of DNELs with HTP values revealed that the values were identical or close to each other in 159 cases (49%), whereas the DNEL was considerably higher in 69 cases, and considerably lower in 87 cases. Examples of cases with high differences between Finnish national OELs and DNELs are given. However, as the DNELs were not systematically lower than the OELs, the default assessment factors suggested by REACH technical guidance had obviously not been used in many of the REACH registrations.
Keywords: DNEL; OEL; REACH; derived no-effect level; occupational exposure limit values.
© The Author 2015. Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of the British Occupational Hygiene Society.