It happens quite often that there is little or no knowledge of the harmful effects of substances that are used by workers. One of the reasons for this is the fact that the risk assessment is usually based on toxicological tests following oral exposure, while workers are exposed via the airways and the skin. New and emerging risks (NERCs) continue to be reported despite existing laws and regulations put in place to limit the risks of dangerous substances at work.
To prevent workers from falling ill because of these NERCs, RIVM is arguing for a system that identifies NERCs as soon as possible. In 2013, RIVM published a list of 43 NERCs that may have adverse effects on health after inhalation or dermal exposure. In this report, this list was extended to 49 NERCs and subsequently prioritized to address those substances that deserve the most attention.
The NERCs were prioritized by mapping both the potential risk and the use of the substance in the Netherlands. Three categories were identified based on specific information: for a substance of the first category there is an urgent need to investigate a possible causal relationship between the exposure and the effect on health, and to take risk reduction measures if needed. The second category requires action to be taken, but not immediately. The third category requires minimal action.
In addition to this, an inventory was made showing the extent to which these 49 substances are already being regulated by the European chemicals legislation REACH or other legislation. Based on this information, the Netherlands' Bureau REACH, together with the Ministries (SZW, VWS and I&M) and the Inspectorates (Inspectorates of SZW, NVWA and ILT) can decide whether or not sufficient measures have already been taken for the substances with the highest priorities, and whether additional measures are needed.