Modelling of occupational exposure to inhalable nickel compounds
The aim of this study was to estimate average occupational exposure to inhalable nickel (Ni) using the German exposure database MEGA. This database contains 8052 personal measurements of Ni collected between 1990 and 2009 in adjunct with information on the measurement and workplace conditions. The median of all Ni concentrations was 9 μg/m3 and the 95th percentile was 460 μg/m3. We predicted geometric means (GMs) for welders and other occupations centered to 1999. Exposure to Ni in welders is strongly influenced by the welding process applied and the Ni content of the used welding materials. Welding with consumable electrodes of high Ni content (> 30%) was associated with 10-fold higher concentrations compared with those with a low content (< 5%). The highest exposure levels (GMs ≥ 20 μg/m3) were observed in gas metal and shielded metal arc welders using welding materials with high Ni content, in metal sprayers, grinders and forging-press operators, and in the manufacture of batteries and accumulators. The exposure profiles are useful for exposure assessment in epidemiologic studies as well as in industrial hygiene. Therefore, we recommend to collect additional exposure-specific information in addition to the job title in community-based studies when estimating the health risks of Ni exposure.