The American Cancer Society (ACS) and the American Medical Association (AMA) have offered their endorsement to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s (OSHA) regulatory efforts to reduce workers’ exposure to respirable silica. It’s a hazard that can cause the disabling lung disease silicosis, as well as lung cancer and other disorders. The ACS’s and AMA’s official statements of support are found in the agency's rulemaking for its proposed silica rule. The docket closed on Tuesday for this phase of the rulemaking process.
The AMA’s support comes in the form of a policy statement the group adopted late last year. They supports OSHA’s proposal to establish a:
“stricter permissible exposure limit (PEL) for respirable crystalline silica…and a stricter standard of exposure assessment and medical surveillance requirements to identify adverse health effects in exposed populations of workers.”
The ACS, and its affiliate the Cancer Action Network's, letter of support explains:
“Although far too many lives have been lost to occupational cancer, countless others have been prevented through regulation and control of workplace carcinogens. …OSHA presents a clear and compelling well-supported rationale for the proposed standard, and we urge that it be adopted promptly.”
And they concur with OSHA when it says:
“…common sense, inexpensive and effective control measures such as keeping the material wet so that dust doesn’t become airborne, and using a vacuum to collect dust at the point where it is created can be used to achieve adequate dust control in many settings at an affordable cost. OSHA’s analysis indicates that reducing the PEL results in benefits that substantially exceed costs.”
The ACS and AMA are not the only public health organizations that support OSHA’s effort to prevent workers from developing silica-related diseases. Others groups endorsing OSHA’s effort---or calling for greater protections for silica-exposed workers---include the American Public Health Association, the American Thoracic Society, the American College of Physicians, and Council of State and Territorial Epidemiologists.
Next month, OSHA will begin a public hearing on its proposed silica rule. It is expected to last several weeks. Business groups like the Chamber of Commerce will testify that silica-related disease is a thing of the past, and that claims about silica’s carcinogenicity are erroneous. But with endorsements from these premiere public health organizations, OSHA should feel confident that it stands on solid ground.
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This is welcome news. The AMA and ACS are not usually partners in this kind of thing, so it's noteworthy that they support the proposed silica rule. Let's hope it continues.