(CN) – The 3rd Circuit upheld the hexavalent chromium standard set by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, but ruled that the agency needs a better system of notifying employees about potential exposure to the toxic chemical.
In 2004, OSHA lowered the allowable exposure risk from hexavalent chromium from 52 micrograms per cubic meter to 1.
However, after determining that this would be technologically or economically infeasible for 55 percent of affected workers, OSHA raised the uniform standard to 5 micrograms.
Hexavalent chromium is used in for metal electroplating and in the production of paints, glass, ink, textile dyes and plastics. Exposure to hexavalent chromium can cause skin damage, asthma, and lung cancer.
The Public Citizen Health Research Group alleged that OSHA under-regulated workers’ exposure to hexavalent chromium.
The United Steel, Paper and Forestry, Rubber, Manufacturing, Energy, Allied Industrial and Service Workers’ International Union joined in the lawsuit.
Judge Rendell of the Philadelphia-based federal appeals court ruled that OSHA uniform standard for all related industries was strong enough, with the exception of the requirement for employees to be notified of exposure.
“We are particularly curious as to OSHA’s reasons for setting the notification level at the (lower standard),” Rendell wrote, “since the agency does not deny that this decision departs from both its proposed rule and its past practice.”
Rendell noted that OSHA also uses a uniform standard for asbestos, vinyl chloride, arsenic and formaldehyde.
The judge also denied a related challenge from the Edison Electric Institute that OSHA overregulated coal and nuclear electric power plants.