The Diesel Exhaust in Miners Study: V. Evaluation of the Exposure Assessment Methods

P.A. Stewart, R. Vermeulen, J.B. Coble, A. Blair, P. Schleiff, J.H. Lubin, M. Attfield, D.T. Silverman

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    Exposure to respirable elemental carbon (REC), a component of diesel exhaust (DE), was assessed for an epidemiologic study investigating the association between DE and mortality, particularly from lung cancer, among miners at eight mining facilities from the date of dieselization (1947–1967) through 1997. To provide insight into the quality of the estimates for use in the epidemiologic analyses, several approaches were taken to evaluate the exposure assessment process and the quality of the estimates. An analysis of variance was conducted to evaluate the variability of 1998–2001 REC measurements within and between exposure groups of underground jobs. Estimates for the surface exposure groups were evaluated to determine if the arithmetic means (AMs) of the REC measurements increased with increased proximity to, or use of, diesel-powered equipment, which was the basis on which the surface groups were formed. Estimates of carbon monoxide (CO) (another component of DE) air concentrations in 1976–1977, derived from models developed to predict estimated historical exposures, were compared to 1976–1977 CO measurement data that had not been used in the model development. Alternative sets of estimates were developed to investigate the robustness of various model assumptions. These estimates were based on prediction models using: (i) REC medians rather AMs, (ii) a different CO:REC proportionality than a 1:1 relation, and (iii) 5-year averages of historical CO measurements rather than modeled historical CO measurements and DE-related determinants. The analysis of variance found that in three of the facilities, most of the between-group variability in the underground measurements was explained by the use of job titles. There was relatively little between-group variability in the other facilities. The estimated REC AMs for the surface exposure groups rose overall from 1 to 5 μg m−3 as proximity to, and use of, diesel equipment increased. The alternative estimates overall were highly correlated (∼0.9) with the primary set of estimates. The median of the relative differences between the 1976–1977 CO measurement means and the 1976–1977 estimates for six facilities was 29%. Comparison of estimated CO air concentrations from the facility-specific prediction models with historical CO measurement data found an overall agreement similar to that observed in other epidemiologic studies. Other evaluations of components of the exposure assessment process found moderate to excellent agreement. Thus, the overall evidence suggests that the estimates were likely accurate representations of historical personal exposure levels to DE and are useful for epidemiologic analyses.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)389-400
    Number of pages12
    JournalAnnals of Occupational Hygiene
    Issue number4
    Publication statusPublished - 2012


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