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

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Abstract

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 4 days 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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