Dust and Cobalt Levels in the Austrian Tungsten Industry: Workplace and Human Biomonitoring Data

In general, routine industrial hygiene (IH) data are collected not to serve for scientific research but to check for compliance with occupational limit values. In the preparation of an occupational retrospective cohort study it is vital to test the validity of the exposure assessment based on incomplete (temporal coverage, departments) IH data. Existing IH data from a large hard metal plant was collected. Individual workers’ exposure per year and department was estimated based on linear regression of log-transformed exposure data for dust, tungsten, and cobalt. Estimated data were back-transformed, and for cobalt the validity of the estimates was confirmed by comparison with individual cobalt concentrations in urine. Air monitoring data were available from 1985 to 2012 and urine tests from the years 2008 to 2014. A declining trend and significant differences among departments was evident for all three air pollutants. The estimated time trend fitted the time trend in urine values well. At 1 mg/m³, cobalt in the air leads to an excretion of approximately 200 µg/L cobalt in urine. Cobalt levels in urine were significantly higher in smokers with an interaction effect between smoking and air concentrations. The authors concluded that exposure estimates of individual workers are generally feasible in the examined plant, although some departments are not documented sufficiently enough. Additional information (expert knowledge) is needed to fill these gaps.

Authors: Hutter HP, Wallner P, Moshammer H, Marsh G. ;Full Source: International Journal of Environmental Research Public Health. 2016 Sep 21;13(9). pii: E931. ;