Standard Interpretations - Table of Contents
• Standard Number: 1910.1000(c); 1926.1101(c)

May 13, 1999

Douglas S. Ellmann, Esq.
Ellmann & Ellmann, P.C.
308 W. Huron
Ann Arbor, MI 48103

Dear Mr. Ellmann:

This letter is in response to your correspondence dated April 1, regarding the Occupational Safety and Health Administration's (OSHA's) previous explanations of permissible exposure levels and the risks associated with asbestos exposure. In your letter you questioned a previous interpretation letter, dated October 6, 1995, which stated that the permissible exposure limit (PEL) is "the level of exposure established as the highest level of exposure an employee may be exposed to without incurring the risk of adverse health effects." Your letter later cites several statements found in the asbestos preambles which contradict this interpretation and which assert that a significant risk still remains at the PEL of 0.1 f/cc for asbestos. Your letter also asks for clarification of which statement more accurately represents OSHA's position on the risk associated with a permissible exposure limit particularly in the case of exposure to asbestos.

The statement from the interpretation letter mentioned above is imprecise. It definitely does not accurately capture OSHA's position on those permissible exposure limits which have been established for most carcinogens, including the PEL for asbestos. With these substances, a significant risk of harm frequently persists at even very low levels of exposure.

When the Final Rule for the Asbestos Standard was published in the Federal Register on August 10, 1994, the OSHA risk assessment showed that reducing the PEL to the 0.1 f/cc level would reduce, but not eliminate, the significant risk of adverse health effects. Exposures at this level were still estimated to pose a lifetime risk of death from asbestos related cancer of 3.4 per 1,000 workers and a 20