Regulatory Toxicology and Pharmacology 2015 May 15 [Epub ahead of print] [Link]

Cowan DM, Cheng TJ, Ground M, Sahmel J, Varughese A, Madl AK.


The United States Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) maintains the Chemical Exposure Health Data (CEHD) and the Integrated Management Information System (IMIS) databases, which contain quantitative and qualitative data resulting from compliance inspections conducted from 1984 to 2011. This analysis aimed to evaluate trends in workplace asbestos concentrations over time and across industries by combining the samples from these two databases. From 1984 to 2011, personal air samples ranged from 0.001 to 175 f/cc. Asbestos compliance sampling data associated with the construction, automotive repair, manufacturing, and chemical/petroleum/rubber industries included measurements in excess of 10 f/cc, and were above the permissible exposure limit from 2001 to 2011. The utility of combining the databases was limited by the completeness and accuracy of the data recorded. In this analysis, 40% of the data overlapped between the two databases. Other limitations included sampling bias associated with compliance sampling and errors occurring from user-entered data. A clear decreasing trend in both airborne fiber concentrations and the numbers of asbestos samples collected parallels historically decreasing trends in the consumption of asbestos, and declining mesothelioma incidence rates. Although air sampling data indicated that airborne fiber exposure potential was high (>10 f/cc for short and long-term samples) in some industries (e.g., construction, manufacturing), airborne concentrations have significantly declined over the past 30 years. Recommendations for improving the existing exposure OSHA databases are provided.