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Performance of population specific job exposure matrices (JEMs): European collaborative analyses on occupational risk factors for chronic obstructive pulmonary disease with job exposure matrices (ECOJEM)


OBJECTIVES To compare the performance of population specific job exposure matrices (JEMs) and self reported occupational exposure with data on exposure and lung function from three European general populations.

METHODS Self reported occupational exposure (yes or no) and present occupation were recorded in the three general population surveys conducted in France, The Netherlands, and Norway. Analysis was performed on subjects, aged 25–64, who provided good forced expiratory volume in 1 second (FEV1) tracings and whose occupations were performed by at least two people, in the French (6217 men and 5571 women), the Dutch (men from urban (854) and rural (780) areas), and the Norwegian (395 men) surveys. Two population specific JEMs, based on the percentage of subjects who reported themselves exposed in each job, were constructed for each survey and each sex. The first matrix classified jobs into three categories of exposure according to the proportion of subjects who reported themselves exposed in each job (P10–50 JEM, low < 10%, moderate 10–49%, high ⩾ 50%). For the second matrix, a dichotomous variable was constructed to have the same statistical power as the self reported exposure—that is, the exposure prevalence (p) was the same with both exposure assessment methods (Pp JEM). Relations between occupational exposure, as estimated by the two JEMs and self reported exposure, and age, height, city, and smoking adjusted FEV1score were compared.

RESULTS Significant associations between occupational exposure estimated by the population specific JEM and lung function were found in the French and the rural Dutch surveys, whereas no significant relation was found with self reported exposure. In populations with few subjects in most jobs, exposure cannot be estimated with sufficient precision by a population specific JEM, which may explain the lack of relation in the Norwegian and the Dutch (urban area) surveys.

CONCLUSION The population specific JEM, which was easy to construct and cost little, seemed to perform better than crude self reported exposures, in populations with sufficient numbers of subjects per job.

  • job exposure matrix
  • occupational exposure
  • lung function
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