IOM scientists advocate tighter standards for airborne dust at work

Scientists at the IOM have highlighted that the current British occupational exposure limits (OELs) for airborne dust are unsafe and employers should attempt to reduce exposures below these limits to help prevent further cases of respiratory disease amongst their workers.

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) have identified that exposure to dust can cause chronic lung disease (COPD) and that...

  • Around 15% of COPD may be caused or made worse by work
  • 4,000 COPD deaths every year may be related to work exposures
  • 40% of COPD patients are below retirement age
  • A quarter of those with COPD who are below retirement age are unable to work

In advising our clients we will recommend that until safe limits are put in place employers should aim to keep exposure to respirable dust below 1 mg/m3 and inhalable dust below 5 mg/m3.

The IOM’s position paper on occupational exposure limits for dust can be accessed here.

The pertinent scientific paper is: Cherrie, J., Brosseau, L.M., Hay, A., Donaldson, K., 2013. A Commentary for the Annals of Occupational Hygiene: Low-Toxicity Dusts: Current Exposure Guidelines Are Not Sufficiently Protective. Ann Occup Hyg.