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Cal-OSHA Issues Diacetyl (DAPORS) Rule – Good or Bad Thing?

To be honest, I don’t know yet as I have only read the press release at this point. HOWEVER, I can definitely see where this might be going.

Well, looks like Cal/OSHA has published a new rule on Diacetyl which may explain why Fed OSHA recently issued their own SHIB as what seems to be a last minute effort. I don’t know if there is a PEL in there or not. I can only hope that there is one and that it’s not a cop-out level of 0 (zero) ppm. I’ll read the rule later and see if any ‘revelations’ come to mind that should be posted as an update. By the way, I’m not really following the issue too closely from the FDA perspective but I do know that they have (still are?) looking at Diacetyl. That’s where the consumer end of the exposures (or alledged exposures if you want to get legally technical, I suppose) will be addressed. And by the way, it’s not just popcorn where the FDA could theoretically take this… see article (or blog post) about presence of Diacetyl in “fake cigarettes” posing possible health risks for kids.

One thing that is bothering me a litte bit is that there seems to be more of a focus by the agencies (both Cal-OSHA and Fed OSHA) over “who’s the leader” and jabbing each other etc. That’s noted with the quote “At this time, not even Federal OSHA has a safety regulation for diacetyl, but we hope that this standard will serve as a model for them to follow.” in the press release. This brings, to my mind, the famous quote from President Ronald Reagan …. “There is no limit to what you accomplish if you don’t care who gets the credit.” I wish they would focus more on helping to identify and solve the dang problem instead of trying to play ‘one-upsmanship’. What that comment really necessary – or helpful? I don’t. As for it being a model for Fed OSHA to follow, I’ll have to read it first to see. Maybe it is, maybe it isn’t. I guess that would put me as ‘cautiously optimistic’.

I don’t want this next comment to be misconstrued because I really do, on a professional level, appreciate the fact that at least they’re trying to do something about the problem. But come on…!!! To let the Diacetyl SHIB out when you have to know that there are flaws or shortcomings in it (even more than I mentioned in a previous post but didn’t do so because I didn’t want to make it a laundry list…) just to ‘beat the other out of the gate’ is just plain silly-season. I’m genuinely concerned that the SHIB may cause confusion among affected manufacturing companies, particularly since it delves into substitutes and numerous other chemicals and not just Diacetyl. Let’s clearly define the problem so that the industry, safety and health professionals, affected workers, and other stakeholders can develop prudent strategies to mitigate the risks! Not elbow each other for “who’s first” jokeying position. Solve the problem, the rest shall follow.

What will be even more helpful in this whole debate is for OSHA and relevant State Plans to publish a report on what they have found in their two Diacetyl related NEPs (Microwave Popcorn issued 3 years ago and Food Flavorings Containing Diacetyl issued a little more than a year ago). Here’s a ‘shout-out’ to OSHA… the 1-year progress report for the NEP on Combustible Dust was PHENOMENAL. You created your own problem here (that’s a compliment) by producing a fantastic document — and stakeholders wanting more of them. I can only hope that you do continue in releasing such reports. What a great “tradition” to leave as a legacy so to speak for future Administrations to come! Seriously!

More posts on this topic will likely follow in the coming days and weeks. Mean time, in case you are interested in reading the press release, it is posted below for your reference.

*** Reposted Press Release ***

California Becomes First State to Set Safety Guidelines for Flavoring Chemical

OAKLAND, Calif., Dec. 2, 2010 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ — Cal/OSHA continues to be a national leader in worker safety by implementing a new standard today to protect employees who work with diacetyl, a chemical commonly used to give food flavorings a buttery taste. Cal/OSHA, a division of the California Department of Industrial Relations (DIR), is the only state-OSHA plan to have such a standard.

“The diacetyl standard is the latest example of how Cal/OSHA is on the forefront of worker safety,” said DIR Director John C. Duncan. “We have taken the lead on this issue from day one and have worked closely with national medical experts as well as the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health to get to this point. We refuse to wait until more workers suffer serious lung ailments to take action. At this time, not even Federal OSHA has a safety regulation for diacetyl, but we hope that this standard will serve as a model for them to follow.”

The new standard, section 5197 of the California Code of Regulations, requires employers covered by the standard to create a regulated area for each process using diacetyl, unless the process is enclosed. Employers must also provide safeguards for employees who work with diacetyl at certain concentrations. These safety measures include creating a written diacetyl control program, periodic monitoring of exposure levels and providing personal protective equipment, respirators, training, and medical surveillance at no cost to employees. The standard goes into effect today.

“Diacetyl, a chemical that is harmless when it occurs naturally or as an ingredient in many of the foods we eat, can be dangerous in industrial settings where flavorings or foods are manufactured because it is used in much higher concentrations that allow it to get into the air that workers breathe,” said Cal/OSHA Chief Len Welsh. “Cal/OSHA has issued citations in the past related to exposure to diacetyl, but this comprehensive standard will allow us to better target our enforcement efforts.”

Workers from two California flavoring companies that use diacetyl have been diagnosed with bronchiolitis obliterans — inflammation and scarring of the small airways that can result in permanent and life threatening narrowing of the airways. A number of employees nationwide who have been exposed to diacetyl have developed the serious respiratory illness which in some cases has resulted in patients being placed on lung transplant wait lists or dying.

Symptoms include persistent dry cough, shortness of breath when using extra energy, and wheezing.

Cal/OSHA Consultation also works to protect employees from dangerous food-flavoring chemicals. Consultation initiated its Flavor Industry Safety and Health Evaluation Program (FISHEP) in 2006 to provide assistance to California food flavor manufacturing companies. Consultation staff conducted mandatory onsite evaluations and consultations with 28 California companies that use pure flavoring ingredients to manufacture food flavors.

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