Declaring that risks are a part of daily life, a chemical industry alliance asked the government yesterday to modify its proposed rules for controlling cancer in the workplace by considering the benefits as well as risks of a suspected carcinogen.
The American Industrial Health Council also said policy should be more fexible in prescribing protective controls and more precise in determining a substance's hazard.
At a press briefing yesterday to announce the chemical industry's position, Paul F. Oreffice of Dow Chemical U.S.A. and Ellwood P. Blanchard of DuPont Co. said that OSHA, by seeking the lowest feasible level of exposure to carcinogens in the workplace, was pursing a "no-risk" goal. This, they said, was unrealistic.
"We take a risk when we got out of bed in the morning," said Oreffice. "Live-styles," including diet, produce more cancer than do substances used in industry, he said, asserting that apples contain four suspected carcinogens.
Oreffice said he wasn't minimizing the risk of workplace health hazards but said the OSHA plan goes too far in the direction of requiring no risk at all. It's like saying that, because speed causes auto accidents, cars must be driven "at no detectable speed," he said.
Federal policy should seek to assess the likelihood of cancer at particular levels of exposure and weigh the risks against both the costs of reducing the exposure levels and the benefits of the substance in quesiton, the industry group said in an 35-page proposal to OSHA.
It also said the policy should take into account the potency of various hazards, place more emphasis on buman expidemiological data and less on animal tests and permit alternatives, such as protecting devices, to expensive engineering changes. It said emergency temporary standards, a key part of the OSHA proposal, should be used only where a "life-threatening hazard" is known to exist.