A scoping survey of attitudes towards occupational exposure limits and REACH derived no effect levels for workers among chemical risk managers at Swedish workplaces
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Karolinska Institutet, Stockholm, Sweden (Integrative Toxicology, Institute of Environmental Medicine)
Royal Institute of Technology, Stockholm, Sweden (Department of Philosophy and History)
Online publication date: 2020-07-22
Corresponding author
Linda Schenk   

Karolinska Institutet, Integrative Toxicology, Institute of Environmental Medicine, Box 210, 17177 Stockholm, Sweden
Int J Occup Med Environ Health. 2020;33(5):611-20
Objectives: Setting and implementing occupational exposure limits (OELs) is one of the measures taken to protect workers from adverse effects of hazardous chemicals. The EU Regulation on Registration, Evaluation, Authorisation and Restriction of Chemicals (REACH) introduced an additional kind of exposure guidance values for workers; namely, the derived no effect level (DNEL) for workers’ inhalation exposure (worker DNEL). About 500 substances have a Swedish OEL, while roughly 5000 substances have a worker DNEL derived by REACH registrants. This work aims to investigate how the Swedish OELs and worker DNELs are perceived at Swedish workplaces, and whether worker DNELs are considered a possible alternative to OELs when the latter are lacking. Material and Methods: An online questionnaire was designed and sent to Swedish companies identified through the European Chemicals Agency’s database of registered substances (N = 126) and the Swedish Chemicals Agency’s registry of companies that import or manufacture notifiable chemical products (N = 227). The response rates were 52% and 38%, respectively. Results: The respondents stated that they were using the Swedish OELs and most of them considered these to be a suitable risk management tool. As about one-third of the respondents expressed that they had some experience in using substances without the Swedish OELs, there are certain data gaps that worker DNELs may fill. One-third of the respondents familiar with worker DNELs stated that they would consider using worker DNELs for substances without the Swedish OELs. However, nearly half of the respondents reported to be unfamiliar with worker DNELs. Conclusions: Poor familiarity with DNELs may pose an obstacle to properly recognizing DNELs’ potential as well as the possible limitations of individual DNELs. There is a need for education about DNELs, as well as for tools facilitating the evaluation of DNELs and OELs from other sources in cases where the applicable Swedish OEL is lacking. Int J Occup Med Environ Health. 2020;33(5):611–20
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