The Validity and Applicability of Using a Generic Exposure Assessment Model for Occupational Exposure to Nano-Objects and Their Aggregates and Agglomerates

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Abstract

Background:

Control banding can be used as a first-tier assessment to control worker exposure to nano-objects and their aggregates and agglomerates (NOAA). In a second tier, more advanced modelling approaches are needed to produce quantitative exposure estimates. As currently no general quantitative nano-specific exposure models are available, this study evaluated the validity and applicability of using a generic exposure assessment model (the Advanced REACH Tool—ART) for occupational exposure to NOAA.

Method:

The predictive capability of ART for occupational exposure to NOAA was tested by calculating the relative bias and correlations (Pearson) between the model estimates and measured concentrations using a dataset of 102 NOAA exposure measurements collected during experimental and workplace exposure studies.

Results:

Moderate to (very) strong correlations between the ART estimates and measured concentrations were found. Estimates correlated better to measured concentration levels of dust (r = 0.76, P < 0.01) than liquid aerosols (r = 0.51, P = 0.19). However, ART overestimated the measured NOAA concentrations for both the experimental and field measurements (factor 2–127). Overestimation was highest at low concentrations and decreased with increasing concentration. Correlations seemed to be better when looking at the nanomaterials individually compared to combined scenarios, indicating that nanomaterial-specific characteristics are not well captured within the mechanistic model of the ART.

Discussion:

Although ART in its current state is not capable to estimate occupational exposure to NOAA, the strong correlations for the individual nanomaterials indicate that the ART (and potentially other generic exposure models) have the potential to be extended or adapted for exposure to NOAA. In the future, studies investigating the potential to estimate exposure to NOAA should incorporate more explicitly nanomaterial-specific characteristics in their models.

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