Noise exposures are associated with a host of adverse health effects, yet these exposures remain inadequately characterized in many industrial operations, including paper mills. We assessed noise at four paper mills using three measures: (i) personal noise dosimetry, (ii) area noise measurements, and (iii) questionnaire items addressing several different aspects of perceived noise exposure.Methods:
We assessed exposures to noise characterized using the three measures and compared the relationships between them. We also estimated the validity of each of the three measures using a novel application of the Method of Triads, which does not appear to have been used previously in the occupational health literature.Results:
We collected 209 valid dosimetry measurements and collected perceived noise exposure survey items from 170 workers, along with 100 area measurements. We identified exposures in excess of 85 dBA at all mills. The dosimetry and area noise measurements assigned to individual subjects generally showed good agreement, but for some operations within mill, large differences between the two measures were observed, and a substantial fraction of paired measures differed by >5 dB. Perceived noise exposures varied greatly between the mills, particularly for an item related to difficulty speaking in noise. One perceived noise exposure item related to difficulty hearing due to noise showed strong and significant correlations with both dosimetry and area measurements. The Method of Triads analysis showed that dosimetry measures had the highest estimated validity coefficient (0.70), and that the best performing perceived exposure measure had validity that exceeded that of area measurements (0.48 versus 0.40, respectively).Conclusions:
Workers in Swedish pulp mills have the potential for exposures to high levels of noise. Our results suggest that, while dosimetry remains the preferred approach to exposure assessment, perceived noise exposures can be used to evaluate potential exposures to noise in epidemiological studies.