Introduction Alkylphenolic compounds are ubiquitous chemicals used as surfactants but having a wide range of other applications. Biologic matrices commonly used in epidemiologic studies, such as blood serum or plasma are not sensitive enough and too susceptible to contamination. Assessment of occupational exposure to alkylphenolic compounds may overcome these limitations. We developed a job-exposure matrix (JEM) to assess occupational exposure to alkylphenolic compounds in epidemiological research.
Methods We consulted multiple sources of information, and performed interviews with nine key people from industry and academia. Three hygienists coded the frequency (minority or majority of workers involved) and intensity of exposure (including dispersive processes, with shaking, or aerosol generation, or otherwise) to alkylphenolic compounds for all the 390 ISCO-88 job titles by period of time.
Results We identified 57 (14.6%) out of 390 ISCO-88 job titles with potential exposure to alkylphenolic compounds. In 6 of jobs deemed as exposed, exposure depended on the economic sector of the occupation. Nonylphenol ethoxylates were the compounds most commonly involved (33 job titles, 57.9% of the exposed). Variations in alkylphenolic compounds use varied greatly over time; while they are still used in the plastic and rubber industry, in domestic cleaning agents their use began to decline before 1995.
Discussion We built a JEM to assess exposure to alkylphenolic compounds, taking into account changes in use over time, different types of alkylphenolic compounds, and different scenarios of exposure, that can be a valuable tool for exposure assessment in epidemiologic research on the health effects of these chemicals.
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