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Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 2018, 15(5), 906; https://doi.org/10.3390/ijerph15050906

Exposure to Quartz in Finnish Workplaces Declined during the First Six Years after the Signing of the NEPSI Agreement, but Evened out between 2013 and 2017

Finnish Institute of Occupational Health, P.O. Box 40, FI-00032 TYÖTerveyslaitos, Finland
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Received: 29 March 2018 / Revised: 17 April 2018 / Accepted: 1 May 2018 / Published: 3 May 2018
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Lung Diseases Associated with Environmental Pollutants)
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Abstract

To reduce the incidence of occupational diseases related to exposure to respirable silica at work, the main industries in the EU associated with respirable silica agreed on measures to improve working conditions through the application of good practices. These practices were included in “The Agreement on Workers Health Protection through the Good Handling and Use of Crystalline Silica and Products Containing it” (NEPSI agreement), signed in April 2006. In Finland, we have previously seen a decline in exposure to respirable quartz in relevant industries upon the treaty coming into effect, during the years 2006–2013. The present paper examines trends in exposure to respirable crystalline silica in Finland from 2006 to the end of 2017. In addition, we looked at changes in the number of exposed workers and the prevalence of silicosis and lung cancer associated with the exposure during the same period. The aim was to find out whether the decline in exposure previously recorded had continued, and whether this, in addition to the previously reported descent in exposure, was reflected in the amount and prevalence of occupational diseases associated with inhaling respirable quartz. In the present study, during the period 2013 to 2017 no further improvements were observed. The exposure remained at an average level of 20–50% of the current OEL8h. This is not necessarily sufficient to eliminate silicosis, lung cancer or other health effects associated with exposure to respirable silica in affected workplaces. To bring about further improvements in exposure, we suggest the present OEL8h in Finland (0.05 mg/m3) and particularly in the many EU countries with an OEL8h of 0.1 mg/m3 be lowered to 0.020–0.025 mg/m3. Secondly, branches outside of the NEPSI treaty where the number of exposed workers is increasing in Finland and possibly in some other EU countries as well, namely building and refinery industries, would be advised to sign the treaty. In addition, as a result of signing, good practices should be developed for work tasks where exposure to respirable silica is of concern in these industries. View Full-Text
Keywords: respirable crystalline silica; quartz exposure; NEPSI agreement; silicosis respirable crystalline silica; quartz exposure; NEPSI agreement; silicosis
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Tuomi, T.; Linnainmaa, M.; Pennanen, S. Exposure to Quartz in Finnish Workplaces Declined during the First Six Years after the Signing of the NEPSI Agreement, but Evened out between 2013 and 2017. Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 2018, 15, 906.

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