Objectives: Self-reported exposure to vapors, gas, dust, or fumes (VGDF) has been widely used as an occupational exposure metric in epidemiologic studies of chronic lung diseases. Our objective was to characterize the performance of VGDF for repeatability, systematic misclassification, and sensitivity and specificity against exposure likelihood by a job exposure matrix (JEM).
Methods: We analyzed data from two interviews, 24 months apart, among adults with asthma and chronic rhinitis. Using distinct job as the unit of analysis, we tested a single response item (exposure to VGDF) against assignment using a job exposure matrix (JEM). We further analyzed VGDF and JEM among a subset of 199 subjects who reported the same job at both interviews, using logistic regression analysis to test factors associated with VGDF inconsistency and discordance with JEM.
Results: For 436 distinct jobs held by 348 subjects studied, VGDF was reported for 193 (44%); moderate to high exposure likelihood by JEM was assigned to 120 (28%). The sensitivity and specificity of VGDF against JEM was 71% and 66%, respectively. Among 199 subjects with the same job at both interviews, 32% had discordant VGDF status (kappa= 0.35). Those with chronic rhinitis without concomitant asthma compared to asthma alone were more likely to have a VGDF report that was discordant with the JEM (OR 3.6 [95% CI 1.4-9.0]; p=0.01). Rhinitis was also associated with reported VGDF in a job classified by JEM as low exposure (OR 3.9 [95% CI 1.6-9.4]; p=0.003).
Conclusion: The VGDF item is moderately sensitive measured against JEM as a benchmark. The measure is a useful assessment method for epidemiological studies of occupational exposure risk.
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