Background and aims Although exposure to asbestos is known to cause adverse health effects like asbestosis and cancer, and the use of asbestos has been banned in most countries, it is still present throughout modern society due to the use of asbestos for several purposes in the past. Recently, the Dutch government has decided to lower the occupational exposure limit (OEL) from 10.000 to 2.000 fibres/m3 chrysotile (and amphibole) asbestos, and the Dutch Health Council has advised an even lower OEL of 300 fibres/m3 for amphibole asbestos. These changes have large implications for ensuring a safe working environment as well as from an analytical point of view.
Methods At this moment, TNO collaborates with stakeholders from government and industry in research to update and improve the currently used framework for exposure and risk assessment, with a primary focus on the Dutch asbestos-removal sector. Available exposure data has been gathered and combined into an extensive exposure database (range 100 – 147.320.000 fibres/m³, mainly task-based measurements), which forms the basis of further research. For relevant product groups used in practice (e.g. board or asbestos-cement roofing material) exposure levels as well as determinants of exposure are being identified and used to improve the currently used risk classification system. The aim of future research is to develop a predictive exposure model. Furthermore, this data is used to identify safe working practices and stimulate innovations leading to improved working methods and/or practical control measures. Also possibilities to improve the sensitivity of the analytical methods are explored.
Conclusion These new developments with regard to exposure assessment and (risk) classification of asbestos in the workplace are necessary to meet the requirements set by the Dutch legislation, and current joint efforts from all stakeholders involved are a big step forward in meeting these requirements.
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