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Respiratory symptoms and airflow limitation in asphalt workers
  1. B G Randem1,
  2. B Ulvestad2,
  3. I Burstyn3,
  4. J Kongerud4
  1. 1Centre for Occupational and Environmental Medicine, Rikshospitalet University Hospital, 0027 Oslo, Norway
  2. 2Cancer Registry of Norway, Montebello, 0310 Oslo, Norway
  3. 3University of Alberta, Edmonton, Canada
  4. 4The Department of Pulmonary Medicine, Rikshospitalet University Hospital, 0027 Oslo, Norway
  1. Correspondence to:
 Dr B Randem
 Centre for Occupational and Environmental Medicine, Rikshospitalet University Hospital, 0027 Oslo, Norway;


Background: Asphalt workers are exposed to bitumen fume and vapour, and to exhaust from engines and passing traffic.

Aims: To assess the occurrence of respiratory symptoms and signs of airflow limitations in a group of asphalt workers.

Methods: All 64 asphalt workers and a reference group of 195 outdoor construction workers from the same company participated in a cross-sectional study. Spirometric tests and a questionnaire on respiratory symptoms and smoking habits were administered. Respiratory symptoms and lung function were adjusted for age and smoking.

Results: The FEV1/FVC% ratio was significantly lower in the asphalt workers than in the referents. Symptoms of eye irritation, chest tightness, shortness of breath on exertion, chest wheezing, physician diagnosed asthma, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) were all significantly more prevalent among the asphalt workers.

Conclusion: In asphalt workers there is an increased risk of respiratory symptoms, lung function decline, and COPD compared to other construction workers.

  • asphalt work
  • asthma
  • chronic obstructive pulmonary disease
  • cross-sectional study
  • lung function

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  • The project received financial support from the Working Environment Fund of the Confederation of Norwegian Business and Industry