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Ann Occup Hyg. 2003 Apr;47(3):211-8.

Dust control measures in the construction industry.

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  • 1Division of Environmental and Occupational Health, Institute for Risk Assessment Sciences, Utrecht University, PO Box 80176, 3508TD Utrecht, The Netherlands.


Quartz is a human carcinogen and a causative agent of silicosis. Exposure levels often exceed exposure limits in the construction industry. The need for effective control measures is high, but the complex structure of the construction industry, the variability in sources of exposure and the frequent changes of worksite makes it difficult to implement even simple and potentially effective control measures. The aim of this study was to evaluate the impact of control measures for reducing quartz dust exposure and to assess the extent of their use. Full-shift respirable dust measurements (n = 61) and short-term measurements among construction workers were performed and results of a questionnaire study among 1335 construction workers were analysed. Full-shift measurements showed respirable quartz exposure levels up to 63 times the maximum allowable concentration (MAC) value (0.075 mg/m(3)). More than half of the measurements were above the MAC value. Control measures were not very strongly associated with the full-shift exposure estimates, but the short-term measurements showed large reduction factors (>70%) when wet dust suppression or local exhaust ventilation was used. The effectiveness of control measures is potentially high, and a significant part of the construction worker population is indeed using them on a regular basis. Still, both the exposure study and questionnaire survey show that the use of respiratory protection is the most widely used preventive measure in the construction industry. Respiratory protection might not always reduce exposure sufficiently. Only the combined use of more than one control measure can reduce exposures to acceptable levels.

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