Quantifying the exposure of construction painters to mixed organic solvents is difficult in the face of a lack of industrial hygiene data, the heterogeneity of the solvents used, and the variability in work practices which influences the amount of solvents to which a worker is actually exposed. This report describes an attempt to derive an estimate of airborne solvent exposure using questionnaire responses in a population of construction and maintenance painters. This exposure index (EI) is a weighted average of the total number of gallons used a year minus the fraction which would be absorbed by a respirator, where the weights are based on the method of application (spraying, rolling, brushing) and the presence of ventilation (per cent time inside v outside). An analysis performed to determine the sensitivity of the EI to variations in the values chosen for several parameters showed that the index is relatively insensitive to the underlying assumptions that we have used. One component of the EI (self report of hours worked) correlated well with union payroll records. The EI appears to provide a useful relative (not absolute) estimate of airborne exposure to organic solvent mixtures which may be used as a dose surrogate in epidemiological investigations.
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