CDC logoSafer Healthier People CDC HomeCDC SearchCDC Health Topics A-Z
NIOSH - National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health

Skip navigation links Search NIOSH  |  NIOSH Home  |  NIOSH Topics  |  Site Index  |  Databases and Information Resources  |  NIOSH Products  |  Contact Us

NIOSH Program Portfolio



NORA Construction Sector Strategic Goals

9278115 - Health Effects of Asphalt Exposure: Development of a REL

Start Date: 10/1/1997
End Date: 9/30/2012

Principal Investigator (PI)
Name: Thomas Lentz
Phone: 513-533-8260
Organization: NIOSH
Sub-Unit: EID
Funded By: NIOSH

Primary Goal Addressed

Secondary Goal Addressed

Attributed to Construction

Project Description

Short Summary

In 2001, NIOSH published a Hazard Review Document on occupational exposure to asphalt and concluded that a risk for respiratory disease and possibly lung cancer might exist for workers exposed to asphalt fumes at the NIOSH Recommended Exposure Limit (REL). The purpose of this project is to determine whether recent scientific evidence supports the need to develop new recommendations to prevent adverse health effects in workers exposed to asphalt fume. If warranted, recommendations will be developed that include a REL and other prevention strategies (e.g., engineering controls, respirators, medical monitoring).


Information published in the 2001 NIOSH Hazard Review Document indicated that acute and possibly chronic respiratory disease existed at the NIOSH recommended exposure limit (REL) of 5 mg/m3 total particulate (15-minute sample). Exposure assessment and medical evaluation studies of highway asphalt pavers have been conducted by DSHEFS to determine whether a relationship exists between asphalt fume exposure and acute respiratory effects. Following completion of data analysis and publication of the study results, a determination will be made in concert with staff from DSHEFS as to the appropriateness of the results for deriving a REL for asphalt fume. If sufficient scientific evidence exists, a NIOSH criteria document update on asphalt will be initiated. This document will include recommendations for: a REL, medical surveillance, exposure monitoring, personal protective equipment, engineering controls, and work practices. Continued collaboration will be maintained with these associations and organizations to ensure that all relevant scientific and technical information is considered should the development of a criteria document be undertaken.


Project objectives include:

--Identify and evaluate recently published studies on the potential health outcomes from exposure to asphalt fumes

--Evaluate the results from the analysis of acute health effects and exposure data collected on asphalt paving workers to determine its adequacy for deriving an occupational exposure limit.

--Ascertain need to develop a criteria document, and if warranted, develop recommendations that will reduce occupational exposure to asphalt fumes.

--Collaborate with industry and labor partners in the implementation of recommendations.

--Identify remaining research gaps with input from partners and recommend appropriate research strategies.

Page last updated:April 24, 2013
Page last reviewed:May 23, 2011
Content Source: National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) Office of the Director


NIOSH Program:


construction worker, crane, architect