ILA in costs warning as new EU workplace lead limits become law

ILA in costs warning as new EU workplace lead limits become law

ILA in costs warning as new EU workplace lead limits become law 200 200 Batteries International

February 29, 2024: New lower workplace limits for lead set to become law in the EU could create unnecessary compliance costs for battery manufacturers and supply chain firms, industry leaders warned yesterday.

ILA senior regulatory affairs director Steve Binks (pictured) told Batteries International the rules, made public last year, include a revised binding workplace occupational exposure limit for lead in air of 0.03Pb mg/m3 and a biological limit value for lead in blood of 15µg Pb/100 ml.

However, Binks welcomed a transition period — accepted by the EU after campaigning by the ILA —  whereby a limit value of 30µg Pb/100 ml blood will apply until the end of 2028.

The updated rules will enter into law when they are published shortly in the Official Journal of the EU. EU member states then have two years to adopt the new limit values into their respective national laws.

The rules replace 40-year EU workplace air lead limits of 0.15 Pb mg/m3 and for employees to have blood lead levels of no higher than 70µg Pb/100 ml blood.

There is also new guidance to protect female workers of childbearing age.

The ILA said the transition period should allow companies sufficient time to introduce the necessary changes in working practices for managing blood lead levels.

Special medical surveillance provisions have also been developed for workers who may have been occupationally exposed to lead over several years, which will minimize any health risks while protecting their employment.

However, Binks warned that some member states could go further and be more restrictive than the EU-wide mandate.

Germany already has a blood lead national value of 15µg Pb/100 ml, which was introduced two years ago. Individual EU states could also decide to adopt the new measures immediately rather than abiding by the transition period.

Binks said: “As an industry we have long adopted ambitious voluntary guidelines for the reduction of lead exposure for employees in our member companies because the prevailing legislative limits were outdated and not reflective of the available health science or modern exposure controls.

“Our guidelines have seen the average blood lead values for employees in ILA companies fall in 2022 to 11.85µg Pb/100 ml blood and most companies are well on target to meet the EU’s new biological exposure limits.”

But he told Batteries International it was regrettable the European Commission’s impact assessment did not assess the costs or benefits of lowering air lead limits but instead focused entirely on blood lead targets.”.

The revised binding occupational exposure limit for lead in air will create unnecessary compliance costs for many European companies in the battery and other lead-using supply chains, without achieving significant health benefits, Binks said.

During the process of developing the new binding workplace limits all stakeholders recognized that a measurement of internal dosage in the form of regular employee blood lead testing was a better risk management tool than air lead measurements.

“We need policymakers to understand that proper impact assessments should accompany these decisions to ensure measures are effective and proportionate, and that they do not hamper unnecessarily European companies’ competitiveness and growth potential.”

On the transition period, he said: “We’ve been working on this since the European Chemicals Agency opinion was published in 2020. It’s taken a lot of work to convince the Commission, European Parliament and European Council to introduce a transition to give companies the necessary time to adapt.”