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Exposure, respiratory symptoms, lung function and inflammation response of road-paving asphalt workers
  1. Yiyi Xu1,2,
  2. Monica Kåredal1,
  3. Jörn Nielsen1,
  4. Mariana Adlercreutz1,
  5. Ulf Bergendorf1,
  6. Bo Strandberg1,2,
  7. Ann-Beth Antonsson3,
  8. Håkan Tinnerberg1,
  9. Maria Albin1,4
  1. 1 Division of Occupational and Environmental Medicine, Laboratory Medicine, Lund University, Lund, Sweden
  2. 2 Section of Occupational and Environmental Medicine, Institute of Medicine, Sahlgrenska Academy at the University of Gothenburg, Gothenburg, Sweden
  3. 3 IVL Swedish Environmental Research Institute, Stockholm, Sweden
  4. 4 Unit of Occupational Medicine, Institute of Environmental Medicine, Karolinska Institutet, Stockholm, Sweden
  1. Correspondence to Dr. Yiyi Xu, Division of Occupational and Environmental Medicine, Laboratory Medicine, Lund University, Lund 22100, Sweden; yiyi.xu{at}


Background Controversy exists as to the health effects of exposure to asphalt and crumb rubber modified (CRM) asphalt, which contains recycled rubber tyres.

Objective To assess exposures and effects on airway symptoms, lung function and inflammation biomarkers in conventional and CRM asphalt road pavers.

Methods 116 conventional asphalt workers, 51 CRM asphalt workers and 100 controls were investigated. A repeated-measures analysis included 31 workers paving with both types of asphalt. Exposure to dust, nitrosamines, benzothiazole and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbon (PAH) was measured in worksites. Self-reported symptoms, spirometry test and blood sampling were conducted prework and postwork. Symptoms were further collected during off-season for asphalt paving.

Results Dust, PAHs and nitrosamine exposure was highly varied, without difference between conventional and CRM asphalt workers. Benzothiazole was higher in CRM asphalt workers (p<0.001). Higher proportions of asphalt workers than controls reported eye symptoms with onset in the current job. Decreased lung function from preworking to postworking was found in CRM asphalt workers and controls. Preworking interleukin-8 was higher in CRM asphalt workers than in the controls, followed by a decrement after 4 days of working. No differences in any studied effects were found between conventional and CRM asphalt paving.

Conclusion CRM asphalt workers are exposed to higher benzothiazole. Further studies are needed to identify the source of nitrosamines in conventional asphalt. Mild decrease in lung function in CRM asphalt workers and work-related eye symptoms in both asphalt workers were observed. However, our study did not find strong evidence for severe respiratory symptoms and inflammation response among asphalt workers.

  • occupational exposure
  • asphalt
  • rubber asphalt
  • respiratory symptoms
  • lung function test
  • interleukin
  • C-reactive protein

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  • Contributors MAl and A-BA designed the project with contribution from YX. YX, MK and JN were responsible for interpreting and understanding the inflammation biomarkers characteristics. MAd performed the lab measurements of inflammation biomarkers. UB and HT performed air measurements of airborne particles. BS performed air measurements of PAHs. YX analysed the data and interpreted the results. The manuscript was written by YX and critically revised by MAl. All authors read, corrected and approved the manuscript.

  • Funding The study was funded by the AFA Insurance and FORTE: Swedish Research Council for Health, Working Life and Welfare.

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Patient consent Obtained.

  • Ethics approval The study was approved by the Regional Ethical Review Board in Lund, Sweden.

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

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