Estimating exposures in the asphalt industry for an international epidemiological cohort study of cancer risk

Igor Burstyn, Paolo Boffetta, Timo Kauppinen, Pirjo Heikkilä, Ole Svane, Timo Partanen, Isabelle Stücker, Rainer Frentzel-Beyme, Wolfgang Ahrens, Hiltrud Merzenich, Dick Heederik, Mariëtte Hooiveld, Sverre Langård, Britt G. Randem, Bengt Järvholm, Ingvar Bergdahl, Judith Shaham, Joseph Ribak, Hans Kromhout*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

57 Scopus citations


Background An exposure matrix (EM) for known and suspected carcinogens was required for a multicenter international cohort study of cancer risk and bitumen among asphalt workers. Methods Production characteristics in companies enrolled in the study were ascertained through use of a company questionnaire (CQ). Exposures to coal tar, bitumen fume, organic vapor, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, diesel fume, silica, and asbestos were assessed semi-quantitatively using information from CQs, expert judgment, and statistical models. Exposures of road paving workers to bitumen fume, organic vapor, and benzo(a)pyrene were estimated quantitatively by applying regression models, based on monitoring data, to exposure scenarios identified by the CQs. Results Exposures estimates were derived for 217 companies enrolled in the cohort, plus the Swedish asphalt paving industry in general. Most companies were engaged in road paving and asphalt mixing, but some also participated in general construction and roofing. Coal tar use was most common in Denmark and The Netherlands, but the practice is now obsolete. Quantitative estimates of exposure to bitumen fume, organic vapor, and benzo(a)pyrene for pavers, and semi-quantitative estimates of exposure to these agents among all subjects were strongly correlated. Semi-quantitative estimates of exposure to bitumen fume and coal tar exposures were only moderately correlated. EM assessed non-monotonic historical decrease in exposures to all agents assessed except silica and diesel exhaust. Conclusions We produced a data-driven EM using methodology that can be adapted for other multicenter studies.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)3-17
Number of pages15
JournalAmerican Journal of Industrial Medicine
Issue number1
StatePublished - 1 Jan 2003
Externally publishedYes


  • Bitumen
  • Exposure matrix
  • Tar


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