Japan Flags Two Chemicals

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The Japanese Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare issued a report last month flagging concerns about seven chemicals, including two that are used by the lubricants industry: diethanolamine and tri-o-cresyl phosphate.

The report included updated guidelines for businesses using the chemicals – especially small and medium-sized enterprises.

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The report was issued last month by the Chemical Substance Risk Assessment Study Group, which exists under the umbrella of the health, labor and welfare ministry, summarizing its assessments risks that the seven chemicals pose in workplaces.

One of the group’s main focuses was risks that the chemicals pose to respiratory systems. The study group concluded that diethanolamine and tri-o-cresyl phosphate were among four chemicals that pose low risk from inhalation. It added, however, that they do constitute risks from absorption through the skin.

Tri-o-cresyl phosphate (CAS Registry Number 78-30-8) is considered potentially toxic to reproduction and neurological systems, while diethanolamine is classified as toxic to human organs.

Tri-o-cresyl phosphate is used in flame-retardant hydraulic fluids and synthetic lubricants along with other applications such as plastics. Diethanolamine is used in cutting oils, as well as soaps, shampoos and pharmaceuticals.

The report identifies exposure thresholds for the chemicals. It also stressed the importance of convincing small and medium-sized enterprises to follow safe handling practices because they typically face bigger challenges than large businesses in absorbing the costs of safety practices.