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Am J Ind Med. 2005 Aug;48(2):110-7.

Exposure to vapors, gas, dust, or fumes: assessment by a single survey item compared to a detailed exposure battery and a job exposure matrix.

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Department of Medicine, The Division of Occupational and Environmental Medicine, University of California San Francisco, San Francisco, California 94117, USA.



Occupational exposure assessment often relies upon subject report. We examined the characteristics of self-reported exposure in respondents' longest held job to vapors, gas, dust, or fumes (VGDF) compared to other measures of exposure risk.


We analyzed data from 1,876 respondents from a national US population-based telephone survey designed to estimate the association between occupational factors and chronic disease of the airways. We tested a single VGDF item against responses to a 16-item battery assessing specific inhalation exposures and against a job exposure matrix (JEM). We analyzed all of these measures for their association with adult-onset asthma after excluding subjects with COPD or asthma with onset before age 18.


VDGF (single item) was reported by 744 (40%) subjects; any of the 16 exposures by 899 (48%); and an intermediate or high exposure likelihood job by JEM was assigned to 682 (36%). The sensitivity of the VGDF item measured against the 16-item battery was 69%; the specificity was 88%; (classification agreement kappa=0.58); against the JEM classification the sensitivity was 64% and specificity 74% (kappa=0.37). The relative odds (OR) for adult-onset asthma associated with various measures of exposure were: VGDF, 1.7 (95% Confidence Interval [CI] 1.0-2.8; P=0.04); any of the 16 exposures, 1.6 (95% CI 1.0-2.7; P=0.06), and intermediate or high by JEM, 1.2 (0.7-2.1; P>0.50).


A single VGDF survey item appears to delineate exposure risk at least as well as a multiple-item battery assessing such exposures; it has modest agreement with a JEM-based exposure categorization.

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