OSHA’s October 2004 Proposed Rule on the lung carcinogen hexavalent chromium and testimony at the February 2005 hearing make a clear case that a PEL of 0.25 ug/m3 (lower than OSHA’s proposed PEL of 1 ug/m3) is justified on health grounds, and is economically and technologically feasible. Electroplating and welding are the only significant industries for whom economic feasibility is even remotely an issue, and almost half these workers are already compliant with a PEL of 0.25 ug/m3. OSHA has questioned the technological feasibility of a PEL lower than 1 ug/m3 in hard chrome electroplating and certain welding operations. However, in these industries, either large fractions of workers are already under 0.25 ug/m3 or OSHA has failed to justify why a lower PEL is technologically infeasible.
Public Citizen’s legal analysis demonstrates that a requirement for respiratory protection for some workers in a minority of sub-industries is not a justification for failing to lower the PEL for all workers, as long as there remains residual significant health risk. In addition, exempting the construction and maritime sectors from monitoring for hexavalent chromium is a misplaced effort to reduce the compliance burden for employers; instead it transfers a major health burden to American workers. With this proceeding entering its 13th year, and with the hearing and the Proposed Rule having exposed the industry counter-arguments as essentially groundless, the time has come to adopt the 0.25 ug/m3 PEL that workers require and that the science supports.