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7.5 Chemical Exposure Limits

The OSHA Laboratory Standard requires that laboratory employee exposure of OSHA Regulated Substances do not exceed the Permissible Exposure Limits as specified in 29 CFR Part 1010, subpart Z.

The Permissible Exposure Limits (PEL) are based on the average concentration of a chemical to which workers can be exposed to over an 8-hour workday, 5 days per week, for a lifetime without receiving damaging effects. In some cases, chemicals can also have a Ceiling (C) limit, which is the maximum concentration that cannot be exceeded. OSHA has established PELs for over 500 chemicals. Permissible Exposure Limits are legally enforceable.

Another measure of exposure limits are Threshold Limit Values (TLV) which are recommended occupational exposure limits published by the American Conference of Governmental Industrial Hygienists (ACGIH). Similar to PELs, TLVs are the average concentration of a chemical that a worker can be exposed to over an 8-hour workday, 5 days per week, over a lifetime without observing ill effects. TLVs also have Ceiling (C) limits, which are the maximum concentration a worker can be exposed to at any given time. The ACGIH has established TLVs for over 800 chemicals. A main point of difference between PELs and TLVs is that TLVs are advisory guidelines only and are not legally enforceable. Both PELs and TLVs can be found in SDSs. Another good resource for information is the National Institute for Occupational Health and Safety (NIOSH).

Please note: if laboratory personnel follow the guidelines described within this Laboratory Safety Manual – use fume hoods and other engineering controls, use proper PPE, practice good housekeeping and personal hygiene, keep food and drink out of laboratories, and follow good lab practices – the potential for exceeding exposure limits is significantly reduced.