AsbestosThe National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) has announced plans to hold a public meeting to review its approach to classifying carcinogens and establishing recommended exposure limits (RELs) for occupational exposures to hazards associated with cancer.
Concerns have been expressed concerns recently about limitations in the NIOSH Carcinogen Policy, prompting a review of the policy in 2010. One area of concern: the term ``Potential Occupational Carcinogen'' which dates to the 1980 OSHA hazard classification for carcinogens and allows for only one cancer category, which is ``potential occupational carcinogen.''

"The adjective 'potential' conveys uncertainty that is not warranted with many carcinogens such as asbestos, benzene, and others," according to NIOSH. "This policy does not allow for classification on the basis of the magnitude and sufficiency of the scientific evidence. In contrast, other organizations, such as the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) and the National Toxicology Program (NTP) allow for a more differential classification."

NIOSH says the revision also coincides with the international realization that there is a need for more efficient and quicker means of classifying chemicals.

"Qualitative and semi-quantitative approaches such as hazard banding are increasingly being investigated as a means of addressing the vast numbers of unregulated chemicals. NIOSH has been in collaboration with various organizations to consider utilizing hazard banding approaches to control chemicals."

NIOSH is expected to release revised carcinogen and REL policies in 2012.

The public meeting will be held on December 12, 2011, 9 a.m.-4 p.m., E.T., in the Hubert H. Humphrey Building, Room 800, U.S. Department of
Health and Human Services (HHS), 200 Independence Avenue SW., Washington, DC 20201.

There is no registration fee but attendees are encouraged to sign up by November 28, 2011 by contacting: Karen Dragon or Sherri Diana
(513) 533-8611.

Comments may be submitted before Dec. 30 via:

  • Mail: NIOSH Docket Office, Robert A. Taft Laboratories/MS-C34, 4676 Columbia Parkway, Cincinnati, Ohio 45226.
  • Facsimile: (513) 533-8285.
  • Email: