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Friday, September 30, 2011

How To Determine If A Substance Causes Cancer at Work

The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) is seeking public input to determine what substances cause cancer and at what level of occupational exposure.

"The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) intends to review its approach to classifying carcinogens and establishing recommended exposure limits (RELs) for occupational exposures to hazards associated with cancer. As part of this effort, NIOSH is requesting initial input on these issues (including answers to the 5 questions in the following section), to be submitted to the NIOSH Docket number 240, for a comment period lasting through September 22, 2011. This information will be taken under consideration and used to inform NIOSH efforts to assess and document its carcinogen policy and REL policy regarding occupational hazards associated with cancer. NIOSH has also created a new NIOSH Cancer and REL Policy Web Topic Page [see] to provide additional details about this effort and progress updates."

"NIOSH is announcing a Request for Information on key issues identified and associated with the NIOSH Carcinogen and REL policies. Special emphasis will be placed on consideration of technical and scientific issues with the current NIOSH Cancer and REL Policies that require further examination including the following:Show citation box

(1) Should there explicitly be a carcinogen policy as opposed to a broader policy on toxicant identification and classification (e.g.carcinogens, reproductive hazards, neurotoxic agents)?Show citation box

(2) What evidence should form the basis for determining that substances are carcinogens? How should these criteria correspond to nomenclature and categorizations (e.g., known, reasonably anticipated,etc.)?Show citation box

(3) Should 1 in 1,000 working lifetime risk (for persons occupationally exposed) be the target level for a recommended exposure limit (REL) for carcinogens or should lower targets be considered?Show citation box

(4) In establishing NIOSH RELs, how should the phrase “to the extent feasible” (defined in the 1995 NIOSH Recommended Exposure Limit Policy) be interpreted and applied?Show citation box

(5) In the absence of data, what uncertainties or assumptions areappropriate for use in the development of RELs? What is the utility of a standard ”action level” (i.e., an exposure limit set below the REL typically used to trigger risk management actions) and how should it be set? How should NIOSH address worker exposure to complex mixtures?

Public Comment Period: Comments must be received by September 22, 2011.

The concept of a compensable industrial disease has developed only recently and its acceptance has lagged far behind that of industrial accidents. The original Workers' Compensation Acts, as promulgated from the year 1911 forward by many of the states, did not provide for the recognition of occupational illness and disease as compensable events. As demands have been placed upon the medical system to treat and to prevent occupational illness, the legal system, under social, economic, and political pressure, has sought to provide a remedy for the thousands of injured workers who have suffered and who are continuing to suffer from occupational illness and disease.