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workers, building, architect

NORA Manufacturing 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 Manufacturing


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.

Mission Relevance

This project will determine the scientific documentation necessary to provide recommendations for preventing acute and chronic respiratory disease in workers exposed to asphalt during paving, roofing, and the manufacture of asphalt roofing products. Nationwide 300,000 workers are involved in the application of asphalt paving materials and 46,000 workers apply hot roofing materials. These workers include laborers, operating engineers, roofers, and waterproofers. This project focuses on the implementation of NIOSH Program Portfolio priorities of characterizing mixed exposures and providing authoritative recommendations. Recommendations developed from this project can be used by safety and health professionals, and persons responsible for establishing guidelines, programs, or standards on occupational exposure to asphalt.

Sector Programs




Strategic Goal 5: Reduce the number of respiratory conditions and diseases due to exposures in the manufacturing sector.

Cross Sector Health Outcome Programs

Cancer, Reproductive, and Cardiovascular Diseases Strategic Goal 1 (09PPCRCSG1): Reduce the incidence of work-related cancer.

Activity/Output Goal 1.2.2. (09PPCRCAOG1.2.2); Work with OSHA, EPA,

DOE and other organizations to apply NIOSH research to their standard setting efforts.

Other Cross Sector Programs

Authoritative Recommendation Development


Strategic Goal 1: Reduce and prevent occupational injuries, illnesses, and fatalities by supporting NORA sector and cross-sector programs in the development of authoritative recommendations.

Communication and Information Dissemination


Strategic Goal 3: Develop and sustain 20 new strategic partnerships and collaborations to assist the dissemination, diffusion and evaluation of NIOSH scientific information products.

Intermediate Goal 3.4(09PPCIDIG3.4): Partner with trade associations, management associations, and other construction stakeholders to disseminate new information and practices and to expand the use of effective safety and health management programs [CON 9.5].

Engineering Controls


Strategic Goal 1: Reducing hazardous Occupational Exposures through the advancement of Control Technology.

Activity/Output Goal 1.3.1 (09PPENGUAOG1.3.1): Contribute to a reduction in the incidence and severity of work-related injuries and illnesses to workers in the Manufacturing Sector. (SG 1.0)

Exposure Assessment


Strategic Goal 1: Develop or improve exposure assessment strategies to understand and prevent work-related illnesses and injuries.


Strategic Goal 2: Develop or improve specific methods and tools to assess worker exposures to critical occupational agents and stressors.

Overall Activity/Output (09PPEXAAOG2): Reduced worker illnesses and injuries as a result of and as evidenced by the acceptance and application of the improved or newly developed exposure assessment tools by 1) researchers and communicators in the NIOSH Program Portfolio Areas, 2) professional organizations and occupational health practitioners and 3) national and international regulatory agencies.