Occupational Cancer – NIOSH Chemical Carcinogen Policy

Current Intelligence Bulletin 68: NIOSH Chemical Carcinogen Policy

NIOSH published a final document entitled “Current Intelligence Bulletin 68: NIOSH Chemical Carcinogen Policy” on December 27, 2016. Underlying this policy is the recognition that there is no safe level of exposure to a carcinogen, and therefore that reduction of worker exposure to chemical carcinogens as much as possible through elimination or substitution and engineering controls is the primary way to prevent occupational cancer. Accordingly, this policy no longer uses the term recommended exposure limit (REL) for chemical carcinogens; rather NIOSH will only recommend an initial starting point for control, called the Risk Management Limit for Carcinogens (RML-CA). For each chemical identified as a carcinogen, this level corresponds to the 95% lower confidence limit of the risk estimate of one excess cancer case in 10,000 workers in a 45-year working lifetime. Keeping exposures within the risk level of 1 in 10,000 is the minimum level of protection and striving for lower levels of exposure is recommended. When measurement of the occupational carcinogen at the RML-CA is not analytically feasible at the 1 in 10,000 risk estimate, NIOSH will set the RML-CA at the limit of quantification (LOQ) of the analytical method. In addition, NIOSH will continue to evaluate available information on existing engineering controls and also make that information available when publishing the RML-CA.

The foundation on which the NIOSH chemical carcinogen policy is built is cancer hazard classification. To avoid government duplication and to utilize transparent and systematic assessments, NIOSH will rely on existing cancer hazard assessments completed by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) National Toxicology Program (NTP), the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Integrated Risk Information System (IRIS), and the World Health Organization International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC).

NIOSH is in the process of developing an implementation plan for the NIOSH Chemical Carcinogen Policy regarding its application to chemicals that NIOSH evaluates. A prioritized list of chemicals to be evaluated is not available at this time.

Page last reviewed: June 5, 2014