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Occupational exposure to asbestos in New South Wales, Australia (1970–1989): development of an asbestos task exposure matrix
  1. Rebecca A Hyland1,
  2. Deborah H Yates1,2,
  3. Geza Benke3,
  4. Malcolm Sim3,
  5. Anthony R Johnson1
  1. 1Workers' Compensation (Dust Diseases) Board Education and Research Unit, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia
  2. 2Department of Thoracic Medicine, St Vincent's Hospital, Darlinghurst, New South Wales, Australia
  3. 3Department of Epidemiology and Preventive Medicine, Monash University, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia
  1. Correspondence to Dr Anthony R Johnson, Department of Respiratory Medicine, Liverpool Hospital, Suite 8/41-43 Goulburn St., Liverpool New South Wales 2170, Australia; anthonyrjohnson{at}


Objectives To design and construct a standardised tool to provide exposure information associated with commonly used asbestos products and their related tasks in New South Wales (NSW), Australia.

Methods Asbestos dust exposure measurements taken during workplace inspections in the 1970s and 1980s were collected and stored in an exposure database. Measurements were assigned to specific asbestos product and task groups and divided into two sampling periods 1970–1979 and 1980–1989.

Results A total of 1578 asbestos air measurements collected from WorkCover and Dust Diseases Board company records were entered into a custom built exposure database. An asbestos-specific exposure matrix (ASTEM) was constructed in Microsoft Excel 2000, consisting of 3 axes incorporating 12 tasks, 8 asbestos products and the 2 time periods based on 872 individual measurements extracted from the exposure database. Each matrix cell contains the mean asbestos exposure levels measured in fibres/ml, 5th and 95th percentiles and number of data points in the set.

Conclusion An ASTEM has been developed which provides exposure levels for different task/product combinations. When used in conjunction with a detailed occupational history, it will improve exposure estimates of a worker's cumulative asbestos exposure.

  • Asbestos
  • matrix
  • exposure

Statistics from


  • policy-implications Information taken from workers about their occupational history can be used together with the asbestos-specific exposure matrix (ASTEM) to calculate a lifetime cumulative asbestos exposure. Using a standard set of exposure estimates will allow consistency in the calculation of workers' exposure to asbestos.

  • Funding This study was funded by the Workers' Compensation (Dust Diseases) Board of New South Wales. This funding body did not have involvement in any area of the study's design, implementation, analysis or write up.

  • Competing interests None.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.

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