Regulation of Occupational Carcinogens in the U.S.-October 2017

Monthly Round Up of Important Ideas and Standards in
Industrial Hygiene and Safety

October 2017

IN THIS ISSUE: Regulation of Occupational Carcinogens in the U.S.

In the US, OSHA is the government agency that regulates worker exposure to hazardous chemicals  and that include carcinogens. Unfortunately, it only regulates about 30 chemicals as cancer causing agents.  As a result, employers should look at other groups, both foreign and domestic, when evaluating worker exposure to cancer. Earlier this year, the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) classified welding fumes and UV radiation from welding as Group 1 carcinogens, the agency’s designation for agents that carry sufficient evidence of carcinogenicity in humans. Despite these findings, there is little chance that OSHA, the government agency that regulates worker exposure to hazardous chemicals, will make any changes in how it regulates welding operations.

In a 2004 publication, the IARC listed 150 occupational agents as probable human carcinogens. In the US, the National Toxicology Program, a US interagency program, has 248 listings of agents, substances, mixtures, and exposure circumstances that are known or reasonably anticipated to cause cancer in humans. Based upon this list, the National Institutes of Health have considered 28 agents as definite occupational carcinogens, 27 agents as probable occupational carcinogens, and 113 agents as possible occupational carcinogens. As of 2017, the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), the government agency that conducts research on Occupational Safety, listed 132 agents that it considers to be potential human carcinogens.

The American Conference of Governmental Industrial Hygienists, a non-governmental industrial hygiene group professional organization, publishes the most extensive of occupational exposure limits. For many of these, it has the following designations:
A1 Confirmed Human Carcinogen
A2 Suspected Human Carcinogen
A3 Confirmed animal carcinogen with unknown relevance to humans
A4 Not classifiable as a human carcinogen
A5 Not suspected as a human carcinogen

There are international organizations as well as US agencies and professional groups that classify and provide guidance on the use of chemicals that can cause workplace cancer. It is important that employers look beyond OSHA regulations and look at these groups as valuable resources to protect their employees from cancer.

For more information on this topic and to discuss your company’s safety and industrial hygiene needs call OccuSafe at (214) 662-6005 or visit us at

OccuSafe Industrial Hygiene & Safety, Inc. provides skills and expertise to recognize, evaluate and control hazards and injuries in the areas of industrial hygiene, occupational safety and health. OccuSafe services companies of all sizes in a range of industries.

This newsletter is published monthly by OccuSafe Industrial Hygiene & Safety Services, Inc. Feel free to forward it to friends and colleagues.

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