Burden of lung cancer and predicted costs of occupational exposure to hexavalent chromium in the EU: the impact of different occupational exposure limits

José Chen-Xu, Lea Sletting Jakobsen, Sara Monteiro Pires, Susana Viegas

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Abstract

Background: Exposure to hexavalent chromium [Cr(VI)] occurs widely in occupational settings across the EU and is associated with lung cancer. In 2025, the occupational exposure limit is set to change to 5 μg/m3. Current exposure limits are higher, with 10 μg/m3 as a general limit and 25 μg/m3 for the welding industry. We aimed to assess the current burden of lung cancer caused by occupational exposure to Cr(VI) and to evaluate the impact of the recently established EU regulation by analysing different occupational exposure limits. Methods: Data were extracted from the literature, the Global Burden of Disease 2019) study, and Eurostat. We estimated the cases of cancer attributable to workplace exposure to Cr(VI) by combining exposure-effect relationships with exposure data, and calculated related DALYs and health costs in scenarios with different occupational exposure limits. Results: With current EU regulations, 253 cases (95%UI 250.96–255.71) of lung cancer were estimated to be caused by Cr(VI) in 2019, resulting in 4684 DALYs (95%UI 4683.57–4704.08). In case the welding industry adopted 10 μg/m3, a decrease of 43 cases and 797 DALYs from current values is expected. The predicted application of a 5 μg/m3 limit would cause a decrease of 148 cases and 2746 DALYs. Current costs are estimated to amount to 12.47 million euros/year (95%UI 10.19–453.82), corresponding to 39.97 million euros (95%UI 22.75–70.10) when considering costs per DALY. The limits implemented in 2025 would lead to a decrease of 23.35 million euros when considering DALYs, with benefits of introducing a limit value occurring after many decades. Adopting a 1 μg/m3 limit would lower costs to 1.04 million euros (95%UI 0.85–37.67) and to 3.33 million euros for DALYs (95%UI 1.89–5.84). Discussion: Assessing different scenarios with different Cr(VI) occupational exposure limits allowed to understand the impact of EU regulatory actions. These findings make a strong case for adapting even stricter exposure limits to protect workers’ health and avoid associated costs.

Original languageEnglish
Article number115797
JournalEnvironmental Research
Volume228
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jul 2023

Keywords

  • Burden of disease
  • Health costs
  • Hexavalent chromium
  • Lung cancer
  • Occupational exposure
  • Public health

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