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EU plans exposure limit for used engine oils

The European Commission has proposed tougher measures to reduce worker exposure to used engine oils (UEOs), one of seven carcinogens prioritised in a planned amendment to the Carcinogens and Mutagens Directive.


UEOs are one of two carcinogens where the commission says tightening controls will reap the greatest health and monetary benefits. The other is trichloroethylene, an industrial solvent. The commission estimates that UEOs pose a risk to a million EU workers and are commonly used in automobile and motorcycle engines, diesel rail engines, aero engines, and portable machinery, including chainsaws and lawn mowers. Frequent and prolonged contact with the oils may cause dermatitis and other skin disorders, including skin cancer.

By introducing new or amended occupational exposure limits (OELs), the commission estimates that 880 EU workers’ lives can be saved and 90,000 fewer cancer cases diagnosed between 2017-2069. This equates to between €0.3bn and €1.6bn (£0.3bn and £1.4bn) in health cost savings.

The proposal does not include an OEL level for UEOs. The planned OEL for trichloroethylene is 50 mg/m3, substantially below the current UK workplace exposure limit of 550 mg/m3.

In May 2016 the commission announced its intention to introduce or lower OELs for 13 cancer-causing chemicals, including hardwood dust and respirable crystalline silica. 


Nic Warburton is acting editor, IOSH Magazine

 Nick Warburton was previously acting editor of IOSH Magazine. Before that he was editor of SHP and he has also worked on Local Authority Waste and Recycling and Environmental Health Practitioner

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