Strategies for setting occupational exposure limits for particles.

H. A. Greim, K. Ziegler-Skylakakis

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


To set occupational exposure limits (OELs) for aerosol particles, dusts, or chemicals, one has to evaluate whether mechanistic considerations permit identification of a no observed effect level (NOEL). In the case of carcinogenic effects, this can be assumed if no genotoxicity is involved, and exposure is considered safe if it does not exceed the NOEL. If tumor induction is associated with genotoxicity, any exposure is considered to be of risk, although a NOEL may be identified in the animal or human exposure studies. This must also be assumed when no information on the carcinogenic mechanism, including genotoxicity, is available. Aerosol particles, especially fibrous dusts, which include man-made mineral fiber(s) (MMMF), present a challenge for toxicological evaluation. Many MMMF that have been investigated have induced tumors in animals and genotoxicity in vitro. Since these effects have been associated with long-thin fiber geometry and high durability in vivo, all fibers meeting such criteria are considered carcinogenic unless the opposite has been demonstrated. This approach is practicable. Investigations on fiber tumorigenicity/genotoxicity should include information on dose response, pathobiochemistry, particle clearance, and persistence of the material in the target organ. Such information will introduce quantitative aspects into the qualitative approach that has so far been used to classify fibrous dusts as carcinogens. The rationales for classifying the potential carcinogenicity of MMMF and for setting OELs used by the different European committees and regulatory agencies are described.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1357-1361
Number of pages5
JournalEnvironmental Health Perspectives
Volume105 Suppl 5
StatePublished - 1997
Externally publishedYes


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