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Exposure, respiratory symptoms, lung function and inflammation response of road-paving asphalt workers

Journal article
Authors Yiyi Xu
M. Karedal
J. Nielsen
M. Adlercreutz
U. Bergendorf
Bo Strandberg
A. B. Antonsson
Håkan Tinnerberg
M. Albin
Published in Occupational and Environmental Medicine
Volume 75
Issue 7
Pages 494-500
ISSN 1351-0711
Publication year 2018
Published at Institute of Medicine, School of Public Health and Community Medicine
Pages 494-500
Language en
Keywords occupational exposure, asphalt, rubber asphalt, respiratory symptoms, lung function test, occupational-exposure, crumb rubber, particles, cancer, nitrosamines, biomarkers, mortality, emissions, fumes, rat, Public, Environmental & Occupational Health
Subject categories Respiratory Medicine and Allergy


Background Controversy exists as to the health effects of exposure to asphalt and crumb rubber modified (CRM) asphalt, which contains recycled rubber tyres. Objective To assess exposures and effects on airway symptoms, lung function and inflammation biomarkers in conventional and CRM asphalt road pavers. Methods 116 conventional asphalt workers, 51 CRM asphalt workers and 100 controls were investigated. A repeated-measures analysis included 31 workers paving with both types of asphalt. Exposure to dust, nitrosamines, benzothiazole and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbon (PAH) was measured in worksites. Self-reported symptoms, spirometry test and blood sampling were conducted prework and postwork. Symptoms were further collected during off-season for asphalt paving. Results Dust, PAHs and nitrosamine exposure was highly varied, without difference between conventional and CRM asphalt workers. Benzothiazole was higher in CRM asphalt workers (p<0.001). Higher proportions of asphalt workers than controls reported eye symptoms with onset in the current job. Decreased lung function from preworking to postworking was found in CRM asphalt workers and controls. Preworking interleukin-8 was higher in CRM asphalt workers than in the controls, followed by a decrement after 4days of working. No differences in any studied effects were found between conventional and CRM asphalt paving. Conclusion CRM asphalt workers are exposed to higher benzothiazole. Further studies are needed to identify the source of nitrosamines in conventional asphalt. Mild decrease in lung function in CRM asphalt workers and work-related eye symptoms in both asphalt workers were observed. However, our study did not find strong evidence for severe respiratory symptoms and inflammation response among asphalt workers.

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