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Study on asbestos exposure limits has ‘scientific shortcomings’

09 April 2021

Following consultations completed by EU chemical regulator ECHA, it aims to review the occupational exposure limits (OELs) for asbestos fibres in the workplace.

However, questions on the methods used and the implications of these have been raised by the Faculty of Asbestos Assessment and Management (FAAM).

It gathered a panel of international scientists, academics and industry professionals to assess the report, which was found to have scientific shortcomings, according to FAAM.

The panel “expressed concern over some of the practical implications of the approach that the report’s findings would necessitate”, it stated.

One of the areas of concern was that only one assessment for all types of asbestos was included in the report. FAAM states that there six types of fibrous minerals included within asbestos and failure to consider all of these will “inevitably” result in the recommendation for a single, lower exposure standard.

The panel of experts said although this would initially appear to be good news for those at risk of exposure, it could result in reducing their levels of protection.

Included below is the list of areas of concern highlighted by the FAAM panel:

• The current method for measuring exposure is based on a world-wide standard and this may become unfeasible to continue to use in the EU and require more costly and time- consuming measurement methods.

• Large changes to the measurement method, and increased costs will lead to a reduction in the monitoring of worker exposure and even if monitored, the time it takes to determine whether the controls are sufficient.

• The amount of dust control necessary to reduce airborne emissions will require the development and use of improved technologies and their widespread deployment over many thousands of sites annually.

• Improved standards of respiratory protection such as widespread use of heavy and bulky self-contained breathing apparatus, may also be required.

• Large changes in methods, technology and costs can easily lead to increased levels of illegal removal, exposing workers and others to greater risks.

• Higher numbers of illegal removals will present a greater challenge for waste management, resulting in an increase in the existing problem of fly-tipping of asbestos wastes.

Those wishing to read the ECHA report can do so here

The response and analysis by FAAM, supported by the British Occupational Hygiene Society (BOHS) can be accessed here

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