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Exposure of highway maintenance workers to fine particulate matter and noise
Meier, R., W. Cascio, B. Danuser, AND R. Michael. Exposure of highway maintenance workers to fine particulate matter and noise. ANNALS OF OCCUPATIONAL HYGIENE. Elsevier Science Ltd, New York, NY, 57(8):992-1004, (2013).
In this study we assessed the mixed exposure of highway maintenance workers to airborne particles, noise and gaseous co-pollutants. The aims were to provide a better understanding of the workers exposure to facilitate the evaluation of short-term effects on cardiovascular health endpoints. To quantify the workers’ exposure we monitored 18 subjects during 50 non-consecutive work shifts. Exposure assessment was based on personal and work site measurements and included fine particulate matter (PM2.5), particle number concentration (PNC), noise (Leq) and the gaseous co-pollutants: carbon monoxide, nitric dioxide and ozone. Mean work shift PM2.5 concentrations (gravimetric measurements) ranged from 20.3 µg/m3 to 321 µg/m3 (mean 62 µg/m3) and PNC were between 1.6×104 particles/cm3 and 4.1×105 particles/cm3 (8.9×104 particles/cm3). Noise levels were generally high with Leq over work-shifts from 73.3 dB[A] to 96.0 dB[A]; the averaged Leq over all work shifts was 87.2 dB[A]. The highest exposure to fine and ultrafine particles was measured during grass mowing and lumbering and was caused by emissions from brush cutters and chain saws. Highest noise levels, caused by pneumatic hammers, were measured during paving and guardrail repair. We found moderate spearman correlations between PNC and PM2.5 (r=0.56); PNC, PM2.5 and CO (r=0.60 and r=0.50) as well as PNC and noise (r=0.50). Variability and correlation of parameters was influenced by work activities that included working equipment causing combined air pollutant and noise emissions (e.g. brush cutters and chainsaws). We conclude that highway maintenance workers are frequently exposed to elevated airborne particle and noise levels compared to the average population. This elevated exposure is a consequence of the permanent proximity to highway traffic with additional peak exposures caused by emissions of the working equipment.
Workers in traffic environments are exposed continuously to particles and noise and may therefore be at higher risk for cardiovascular diseases compared to the average population.
Record Details:Record Type: DOCUMENT (JOURNAL/PEER REVIEWED JOURNAL)
Organization:U.S. ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION AGENCY
OFFICE OF RESEARCH AND DEVELOPMENT
NATIONAL HEALTH AND ENVIRONMENTAL EFFECTS RESEARCH LAB
ENVIRONMENTAL PUBLIC HEALTH DIVISION