Retrospective exposure assessment in a chemical research and development facility

Yu Cheng Chen, Gurumurthy Ramachandran, Bruce H Alexander, Jeffrey H. Mandel

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

13 Scopus citations


The objective of this exposure assessment was to reconstruct cumulative historical exposures for workers who have been exposed to multiple chemicals and chemical groups to better understand a cluster of brain cancers within a research and development lab. Chemicals of interest, including acrylates, bis-chloromethyl ether (BCME), chloromethyl methyl ether (CMME), isothiazolones and nitrosoamines, were selected on the basis of the plausibility of penetrating the blood-brain barrier and the uniqueness of the chemical's biological activity.In a complicated exposure setting such as a chemical R&D facility, multiple exposure estimation methods were needed. First, similarly exposure groups (SEGs) were created for these materials based on department group, time period of the department's existence and function associated with job titles. A probabilistic framework for assessing exposures was developed using Bayesian analysis of historical monitoring data, mathematical exposure modeling and professional judgments of current and former industrial hygienists at the facility were used to reconstruct the exposure history for acrylates, BCME and CMME for each SEG over the time period of interest. Since sufficient measurement data for isothiazolones and nitrosoamines were not available, the exposure histories for each SEG for these chemicals were estimated. This was done using objective formaldehyde levels and subjective employee interviews. The interviews assessed workplace determinants of exposure as distinct surrogates for estimating inhalation and dermal exposures. The exposure assessments by these methods were compared against each other to estimate the potential for exposure misclassification. A job exposure matrix (JEM) was constructed that contained the exposures obtained from above multiple approaches for each of these chemical groups for each SEG for each year of interest. The combination of methods used in this work is a unique and potentially helpful framework that can be used in analogous workplace settings involving multiple exposures with incomplete objective measurement information.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)111-121
Number of pages11
JournalEnvironment international
Issue number1
StatePublished - Feb 2012

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This project was originally supported by a research grant from Rohm and Haas Company, which is now owned by Dow Chemical Company.


  • Expert judgment
  • Exposure misclassification
  • Exposure modeling
  • Exposure modifier
  • Exposure reconstruction
  • JEM


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