A three-judge panel of the 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals will hear oral arguments today about OSHA’s rule on hexavalent chromium.  OSHA issued the rule in February 2006, after this same Court of Appeals instructed the Agency in December 2002 to do so.  (According to Law.com, the attorneys for the parties learned only two weeks ago that Justice O’Connor would be on the panel.)

Public Citizen and the United Steelworkers petitioned the court for a review of OSHA’s 2006 final rule, arguing that the 5 ug/m3 PEL does not protect workers’ health.  Hexavalent chromium is a known human carcinogen.  OSHA’s risk assessment indicated that even at a 1.0 ug/m3 exposure limit (over a working lifetime), as many as 9 out of 1,000 workers would develop lung cancer.  Attorneys for Labor Secretary Chao, joined by the National Association of Manufacturers, Specialty Steel Industry, Portland Cement Association, and other industry groups, assert that the exposure limit set by OSHA is feasible, and anything stricter than that would….would… cost them too much money not be feasible. 

After the oral arguments, the three judge panel may take a couple of months to write their opinion.

P.S. While lawyers for the Portland Cement Association are right in the mix defending this inadequate OSHA standard on hexavalent chromium, their colleagues were signing an alliance agreement with MSHA , trying to show their commitment to workers’ health and safety.  Just DON’T make them comply, by golly, with any strict hexavalent chromium exposure limits.