Chemical and Physical Exposures in the Emerging US Green-Collar Workforce

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“Green collar” workers serve in occupations that directly improve environmental quality and sustainability. This study estimates and compares the prevalence of select physical and chemical exposures among green versus non-green U.S. workers.


Data from the U.S. 2010 National Health Interview Survey (NHIS) Occupational Health Supplement were linked to the Occupational Information Network (O*NET) Database. We examined four main exposures: 1) vapors, gas, dust, fumes (VGDF); 2) secondhand tobacco smoke; 3) skin hazards; 4) outdoor work.


Green-collar workers were significantly more likely to report exposure to VGDF and outdoor work than nongreen-collar workers [adjusted odds ratio (AOR) = 1.25; 95% CI = 1.11 to 1.40; AOR = 1.44 (1.26 to 1.63), respectively]. Green-collar workers were less likely to be exposed to chemicals (AOR = 0.80; 0.69 to 0.92).


Green-collar workers appear to be at a greater risk for select workplace exposures. As the green industry continues to grow, it is important to identify these occupational hazards in order to maximize worker health.

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