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Occupational exposures and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD): comparison of a COPD-specific job exposure matrix and expert-evaluated occupational exposures
  1. Laura Kurth1,
  2. Brent Doney1,
  3. Sheila Weinmann2
  1. 1Respiratory Health Division, National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Morgantown, West Virginia, USA
  2. 2Center for Health Research, Kaiser Permanente Northwest, Portland, Oregon, USA
  1. Correspondence to Dr Laura Kurth, Respiratory Health Division, National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 1095 Willowdale Road, Morgantown, WV 26505 USA; vrz6{at}


Objectives To compare the occupational exposure levels assigned by our National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health chronic obstructive pulmonary disease-specific job exposure matrix (NIOSH COPD JEM) and by expert evaluation of detailed occupational information for various jobs held by members of an integrated health plan in the Northwest USA.

Methods We analysed data from a prior study examining COPD and occupational exposures. Jobs were assigned exposure levels using 2 methods: (1) the COPD JEM and (2) expert evaluation. Agreement (Cohen's κ coefficients), sensitivity and specificity were calculated to compare exposure levels assigned by the 2 methods for 8 exposure categories.

Results κ indicated slight to moderate agreement (0.19–0.51) between the 2 methods and was highest for organic dust and overall exposure. Sensitivity of the matrix ranged from 33.9% to 68.5% and was highest for sensitisers, diesel exhaust and overall exposure. Specificity ranged from 74.7% to 97.1% and was highest for fumes, organic dust and mineral dust.

Conclusions This COPD JEM was compared with exposures assigned by experts and offers a generalisable approach to assigning occupational exposure.

  • occupational exposure
  • job exposure matrix
  • epidemiologic methods
  • chronic obstructive pulmonary disease

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  • Contributors BD developed the study methods. LK analysed the data and submitted the study. LK and BD wrote the first draft. SW provided input on the analysis and comments on draft versions. All authors approved the final version of the manuscript.

  • Funding The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) supported the salaries of LK and BD.

  • Disclaimer The findings and conclusions in this brief are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent the views of the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health. Mention of a specific product or company does not constitute endorsement by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. This paper was prepared and written by NIOSH employees as part of their employment.

  • Competing interests None declared.

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