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September 20, 2010
Hazardous Chemicals: Cal/OSHA Updates Permissible Exposure Limits; Part II: Previously Unregulated Chemicals

In December, the Occupational Safety and Health Standards Board completed the most recent update of Cal/OSHA's permissible exposure limits (PELs)—something it does approximately once every three years (the last revision took effect in 2006). Last month we covered the eight revised PELs that went into effect on Aug. 3, 2010. Below we discuss the remaining five chemicals that were not previously subject to Cal/OSHA PELs but have been found to be hazardous to humans and are now regulated.

1-bromopropane. This chemical is used as a solvent and sometimes as a substitute for more hazardous chemicals. It can cause nerve damage, liver damage, and reproductive and developmental toxicity. Its PEL is 5 ppm (parts per million in the air) with a "skin" designation, indicating that toxic amounts of the chemical can be absorbed through the skin.

Glyoxal (1,2 ethanedione). This chemical is available both as a solid and a gas, for use in textiles, glues, and biocides. The new PEL of 0.1 mg/M3 covers both forms.

Methyl vinyl ketone (MVK). Methyl vinyl ketone is used as an alkylating agent, a resin component, a precursor in the production of photobiodegradable polymers used in packaging applications, and an intermediate in the synthesis of steroids and vitamin A. It can cause respiratory irritation and sensitization. The new PEL of 0.05 ppm is set as a ceiling limit (rather than a time-weighted average), with a skin designation.

Refractory ceramic fiber (RCF). Refractory ceramic fiber is used in high-temperature or fire-resistant applications. Normally, RCF is a nuisance dust, causing skin and respiratory irritation. However, when heated beyond 1,800 degrees Fahrenheit, some RCF will convert to cristobalite—a form of crystalline silica known to cause asthma, emphysema, silicosis (a lung disease), and cancer. The new PEL is 0.2 f/cc (fibers per cubic centimeter of air).

Vinyl fluoride. Vinyl fluoride is used in polyvinyl fluoride and other fluoropolymers and may cause liver cancer. Its PEL is 0.2 ppm (0.38 mg/M3).

Practice Tip

1-bromopropane is sometimes used as a substitute for perchlo-roethylene (PERC) in dry cleaning. Now that California is phasing out the use of PERC, 1-bromopropane may become more of an issue for California employers.

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