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J Occup Health. 2010;52(4):199-208. Epub 2010 May 14.

Development of a retrospective job exposure matrix for PCB-exposed workers in capacitor manufacturing.

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  • 1Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, Division of Surveillance, Hazard Evaluation and Field Studies, Industry-wide Studies Branch, USA.



Polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) are considered probable human carcinogens by the International Agency for Research on Cancer and one congener, PCB126, has been rated as a known human carcinogen. A period-specific job exposure matrix (JEM) was developed for former PCB-exposed capacitor manufacturing workers (n=12,605) (1938-1977).


A detailed exposure assessment for this plant was based on a number of exposure determinants (proximity, degree of contact with PCBs, temperature, ventilation, process control, job mobility). The intensity and frequency of PCB exposures by job for both inhalation and dermal exposures, and additional chemical exposures were reviewed. The JEM was developed in nine steps: (1) all unique jobs (n=1,684) were assessed using (2) defined PCB exposure determinants; (3) the exposure determinants were used to develop exposure profiles; (4) similar exposure profiles were combined into categories having similar PCB exposures; (5) qualitative intensity (high-medium-low-baseline) and frequency (continuous-intermittent) ratings were developed, and (6) used to qualitatively rate inhalation and dermal exposure separately for each category; (7) quantitative intensity ratings based on available air concentrations were developed for inhalation and dermal exposures based on equal importance of both routes of exposure; (8) adjustments were made for overall exposure, and (9) for each category the product of intensity and frequency was calculated, and exposure in the earlier era was weighted.


A period-specific JEM modified for two eras of stable PCB exposure conditions.


These exposure estimates, derived from a systematic and rigorous use of the exposure determinant data, lead to cumulative PCB exposure-response relationships in the epidemiological cancer mortality and incidence studies of this cohort.

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