Brussels — Polyurethane is named as a sector which could be affected by a European Commission proposal to set new or stricter exposure limits for what it calls 13 ‘cancer-causing’ chemicals in the workplace.
The proposal part of changes to the Carcinogens and Mutagens Directive (2004/37/EC) has been agreed by the European Parliament and the Council of Ministers and could soon pass into European Law.
In the memo attached the press release, polyurethane is named as a sector which could be affected by changes in exposure to propylene oxide. The memo uses propylene oxide’s chemical synonym 1,2- epoxypropane.
It is unclear why the polyurethane sector has been named in the memo because propylene oxide is used to make polyols and is not directly used in the manufacture of polyurethanes. Ethylene oxide is also named in the memo, and it is also used to make polyols, but there is no mention of polyurethane among industry sectors that will be affected by the lower levels of exposure.
For propylene oxide, the new exposure limits will be 2.4 mg/m3 and between 485 and 1500 workers could be exposed to the chemical across the European Union, according to the Commission. For ethylene oxide the exposure limit will be 1.8 mg/m3 and approximately 15,600 people could be exposed to the chemical across the European Union, the Commission said.
These limit values set a maximum concentration for the presence of a chemical carcinogen in the workplace air. The proposal is based on scientific evidence and follows broad discussions with scientists, employers, workers, Member States’ representatives and labour inspectors, the EC said.