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Assigning exposure to pesticides and solvents from self-reports collected by a computer assisted personal interview and expert assessment of job codes: the UK Adult Brain Tumour Study
  1. S J Hepworth1,
  2. A Bolton2,
  3. R C Parslow1,
  4. M van Tongeren2,
  5. K R Muir3,
  6. P A McKinney1
  1. 1Centre for Epidemiology and Biostatistics, Leeds Institute of Genetics, Health and Therapeutics, University of Leeds, Leeds, UK
  2. 2Centre for Occupational and Environmental Health, Division of Epidemiology & Health Sciences, The University of Manchester, Manchester, UK
  3. 3Division of Epidemiology and Public Health, School of Community Health Sciences, University of Nottingham Medical School, Nottingham, UK
  1. Correspondence to:
 Miss S J Hepworth
 Centre for Epidemiology and Biostatistics, Leeds Institute of Genetics, Health and Therapeutics, 30 Hyde Terrace, University of Leeds, Leeds LS2 9LN, UK; s.j.hepworth{at}


Objectives: To compare assignment of occupational pesticide and solvent exposure using self-reported data collected by a computer assisted personal interview (CAPI) with exposure based on expert assessment of job codes. To discuss the advantages and disadvantages of using a CAPI to collect individual occupational exposure data.

Methods: Between 2001 and 2004, 1495 participants were interviewed using a CAPI for a case-control study of adult brain tumours and acoustic neuromas. Two types of occupational data were collected: (1) a full history, including job title from which a job code was assigned from the Standard Occupational Classification; and (2) specific details on pesticide and solvent exposure reported by participants. Study members’ experiences of using the CAPI were recorded and advantages and disadvantages summarised.

Results: Of 7192 jobs recorded, the prevalence of self-reported exposure was 1.3% for pesticides and 11.5% for solvents. Comparing this with exposure expertly assessed from job titles showed 53.6% and 45.8% concordance for pesticides and solvents respectively. Advantages of the CAPI include no data entry stage, automatic input validation, and a reduction in interviewer bias. Disadvantages include an adverse effect on study implementation as a consequence of resources required for programming and difficulties encountered with data management prior to analysis.

Conclusions: Different methods of exposure assessment derive different exposure levels for pesticide and solvent exposure at work. Agreement between self-reported and expert assessment of exposure was greater for pesticides compared to solvents. The advantages of using a CAPI for the collection of complex data outweigh the disadvantages for interviewers and data quality but using such a method requires extra resources at the study outset.

  • computer assisted personal interview
  • occupation
  • interviewing

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  • Competing interests: none