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Introduction of Global Occupational Exposure Limits

  •   20 Aug 2019
  •    Robert Brandys
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    1. Historical Perspective on Global Occupational Exposure Limits

    Adverse health effects from occupational exposure to chemicals has been known for thousands of years. The Romans noted effects from lead and asbestos and later arsenic. A list of “poisons” that have been used for various purposes was well known. 

    Establishing occupational exposure limits for some of these chemicals started over 150 years ago. It is interesting to note that indoor air quality standards were recommended first because this research was funded by wealthy individuals to protect their health in their castles. The first actual chemical exposure standards for workers was set by Germany for the manufacturing of gas warfare agents (1912). The first peace-time occupational exposure limit was for quartz (inhalation causes silicosis and other lung diseases), which is still an exposure problem over 100 years later. 

    Occupational exposure limits exist in over 50 countries and regions. Some exposure levels apply to 8 hour occupational exposures, 15 minute Short Term Exposure Limit (STELs), ceiling limits, Immediately Dangerous to Life and Health limits (IDLH) and yet others are designed to address 24 hour exposures, cancer risks or reproductive risks. In the past decades, many countries, regions and organizations have worked on perfecting their exposure standards. Some historical highlights are shown as below. 

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    ABOUT THE AUTHOR

    Senior advisor of OEHCS, Inc.

    Dr. Robert C. Brandys has a Ph.D. in Environmental Safety and Health, a Masters in Public Health, and bachelor’s degrees in thermo-mechanical and environmental engineering. He is a Registered Professional Engineer, a retired Certified Industrial Hygienist, and a retired Certified Safety Professional. He has over 40 years of experience in the safety and environmental field. He worked as a corporate safety manager for major healthcare corporations for over 15 years. He was President of OEHCS from 1984 to 2011. He has authored and co-authored numerous publications.

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