BACKGROUND: Although asphalt fume is a recognized irritant, previous studies of acute symptoms during asphalt paving have produced inconsistent results. Between 1994 and 1997, the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) evaluated workers at seven sites in six states. METHODS: NIOSH (a) measured exposures of asphalt paving workers to total (TP) and benzene-soluble particulate (BSP), polycyclic aromatic compounds, and other substances; (b) administered symptom questionnaires pre-shift, every 2 hr during the shift, and post-shift to asphalt exposed and nonexposed workers; and (c) measured peak expiratory flow rate (PEFR) of asphalt paving workers when they completed a symptom questionnaire. RESULTS: Full-shift time-weighted average exposures to TP and BSP ranged from 0.01 to 1.30 mg/m(3) and 0.01 to 0.82 mg/m(3), respectively. Most BSP concentrations were <0.50 mg/m(3). Asphalt workers had a higher occurrence rate of throat irritation than nonexposed workers [13% vs. 4%, odds ratio (OR) = 4.0, 95% confidence interval (CI): 1.2-13]. TP, as a continuous variable, was associated with eye (OR = 1.34, 95% CI: 1.12-1.60) and throat (OR = 1.40, 95% CI: 1.06-1.85) symptoms. With TP dichotomous at 0.5 mg/m(3), the ORs and 95% CIs for eye and throat symptoms were 7.5 (1.1-50) and 15 (2.3-103), respectively. BSP, dichotomous at 0.3 mg/m(3), was associated with irritant (eye, nose, or throat) symptoms (OR = 11, 95% CI: 1.5-84). One worker, a smoker, had PEFR-defined bronchial lability, which did not coincide with respiratory symptoms. CONCLUSIONS: Irritant symptoms were associated with TP and BSP concentrations at or below 0.5 mg/m(3).
Asphalt-fumes; Asphalt-industry; Road-surfacing; Road-construction; Statistical-analysis; Epidemiology; Particulates; Respiratory-system-disorders; Pulmonary-system-disorders; Respiratory-irritants; Eye-irritants; Hydrocarbons; Aromatic-hydrocarbons; Polycyclic-aromatic-hydrocarbons; Polycyclic-hydrocarbons
Hazard Evaluations and Technical Assistance Branch, Division of Surveillance, Hazard Evaluations and Field Studies, National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, NIOSH, Cincinnati, Ohio 45226, USA