The UK competent authority for REACH has called for a lowering of the occupational exposure limit for naphthalene in its substance evaluation conclusion.
The move is significant for industry because this could make using the substance more expensive through changes to engineering controls and personal protective equipment.
The majority of naphthalene produced and imported into the EU is used as an intermediate in the manufacture of phthalic anhydride, azo dyes, naphthalene sulphonic acids, alkylated naphthalene solvents, 2-naphthol, pharmaceuticals and insecticides.
It also has some military applications in smoke bombs and grenades, as well as professional uses in creosote, paints and membranes. Workers might also be exposed through asphalting.
Echa put naphthalene on the community rolling action plan (Corap) for evaluation because of a derived no-effect level (Dnel) in the registration dossier that seemed high relative to at least one national OEL. The worker inhalation Dnel in the registration was 25 milligrammes per cubic metre (mg/m3) as an eight-hour time weighted average (eight-hr TWA). The equivalent national OEL in Germany, however, was only 0.5mg/m3.
In its conclusion, published in December last year, the UK competent authority recommends that the EU lowers its indicative OEL value (IOELV), currently 50mg/m,3 because the value "is not providing any incentive for employers to improve workplace control".
IOELVs are not binding for member states, but must be taken into consideration in setting national occupational exposure limits.
Additionally, the UK competent authority says that the Scientific Committee on Occupational Exposure Limits (Scoel) and European Commission’s DG Employment should prioritise naphthalene for setting a new OEL-value.
It adds that inhalation exposure should be kept below 10mg/m3. The critical health hazards for naphthalene are haemolytic anaemia and carcinogenicity.