OSHA Settles Challenge To Hexavalent Chromium Standard

National Association of Manufacturers and other organizations disagreed with OSHA’s lowering of hexavalent chromium standards.

WASHINGTON - The U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) on Tuesday reached a settlement with the National Association of Manufacturers (NAM), the Specialty Steel Industry of North America (SSINA), the Public Citizen Health Research Group (HRG) and the United Steel, Paper and Forestry, Rubber, Manufacturing, Energy, Allied Industrial and Service Workers International Union (Steelworkers) over NAM’s and SSINA’s challenge to OSHA’s hexavalent chromium standard.
As a result of the settlement, a letter of interpretation, to be issued by OSHA’s Directorate of Enforcement Programs, will address specific questions NAM and SSINA presented to OSHA regarding the agency’s new hexavalent chromium (Cr(VI)) standard for general industry.
On or before May 24, 2007, NAM and SSINA will be filing a motion with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit to withdraw their petition for review of the Cr(VI) standard.
OSHA, HRG, and the Steelworkers have agreed not to oppose any motion NAM and/or SSINA may file to intervene in support of the Cr(VI) standard in the remaining cases.
OSHA's new standard lowered permissible exposure limit (PEL) for hexavalent chromium, and for all Cr(VI) compounds, from 52 to 5 micrograms of Cr(VI) per cubic meter of air as an 8-hour time- weighted average. The standard also included provisions relating to preferred methods for controlling exposure, respiratory protection, protective work clothing and equipment, hygiene areas and practices, medical surveillance, hazard communication and recordkeeping.
Hexavalent chromium compounds are widely used in the chemical industry as ingredients and catalysts in pigments, metal plating and chemical synthesis. Cr(VI) can also be produced when welding on stainless steel or Cr(VI)-painted surfaces. The major health effects associated with exposure to Cr(VI) include lung cancer, nasal septum ulcerations and perforations, skin ulcerations, and allergic and irritant contact dermatitis.
According to the NAM, these new rules would impose additional unnecessary and severe cost burdens on manufacturers that use Cr(VI).

In NAM’s lawsuit, the organization contended that the lowering of the standard would adversely affect U.S. manufacturers’ competitiveness in the global marketplace and could result in the outsourcing of many products currently produced by, and services now performed by, U.S. manufacturers and U.S. workers.
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