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Emission Standards

EU: Occupational Health Regulations

Regulatory Background

The European Union maintains a list of indicative exposure limit values for chemical substances. The limits are developed by the European Agency for Safety and Health at Work. These “community values” are not mandatory—member states are required to establish national occupational exposure limit values for listed chemical agents “taking into account the community values”, but the national exposure limits may be different from the community values.

Another, mandatory list of limit values applies to exposure to chemical agents designated as carcinogens or mutagens, Directive 2004/37/EC. In January 2019, exposure limits for diesel engine exhaust emissions were added for the first time to the carcinogen listing.

Occupational health exposure limit values for a number of substances in a number of countries, including but not limited to EU member states, can be found in the GESTIS database [4208].

Indicative Exposure Limits

Exposure limit values for selected pollutants found in the exhaust gases from internal combustion engines are shown in Table 1 [4207].

Table 1. Indicative occupational exposure limit values for selected engine exhaust pollutants
Substance8 hr TWASTEL

Diesel Exhaust Emissions

2019 amendments to Directive 2004/37/EC on the protection of workers from the risks related to exposure to carcinogens or mutagens at work introduced, for the first time, exposure limits for diesel engine exhaust emissions [4206].

The exposure limit value for diesel engine exhaust emissions has been set at 0.05 mg/m3, measured as elemental carbon (EC). This limit value becomes effective in general occupational health environments from 21 February 2023. In underground mining and tunnel construction, the limit value is applicable from 21 February 2026.

The 2019 amendments also include skin notations—the possibility of significantly absorbing the substance through the skin—for polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons mixtures, particularly those containing benzo[a]pyrene; and for mineral oils that have been used in internal combustion engines to lubricate and cool the moving parts within the engine.