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Subcommittee of Advisory Board to DOL Clarifies Recommendations

January 17, 2018

January 17, 2018

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The Advisory Board on Toxic Substances and Worker Health’s (ABTSWH) Subcommittee on the Site Exposure Matrices (SEM) had a short teleconference to review the drafts of revised recommendations.  In April of 2017, ABTSWH made several recommendations to improve the program.  Two of the recommendations submitted to the Department of Labor’s Division of Energy Employees Occupational Illness Compensation (DEEOIC) were suggested improvements to the Occupational History Questionnaire (OHQ) and advice to expand the COPD presumption to bring it more in line with current scientific and medical knowledge.

DEEOIC responded to the Board’s recommendations before the full board meeting in November 2017.  DEEOIC raised concerns and asked the Board to revisit their recommendations.

The common issue with the two recommendations is including vapors, gasses, dusts, and fumes (VGDF) as a toxic substance in the OHQ and as an exposure which could contribute to the development of COPD.  DEEOIC objected because the law states that an illness can only be accepted if a specific toxic exposure can be identified to the development of the disease.  DEEOIC asserts that VGDF is a mixture and therefore cannot be considered a single toxic substance.  The Subcommittee took exception to that assessment and noted that DEEOIC has considered mixtures when adjudicating claims, welding fumes and organic solvent exposure, for example.

The Subcommittee was also firm in their recommendation to include “free text” when the OHQ interview is conducted.  The members explained that allowing the claimant to discuss the tasks or processes performed will help identify exposure potential.

The concern that Hanford Tank Farm workers may have a more difficult time proving exposure if they develop an illness from the vapors.  The Subcommittee will revise the draft recommendation to ensure those workers will be included in the labor category/job process section of the OHQ.

To review the draft responses visit,

OHQ draft response

COPD draft response

Please note that the draft responses will be revised to incorporate the Subcommittee’s discussions.  The final responses will be presented during the full board teleconference on January 30, 2018.