Am J Ind Med. 2020 Apr;63(4):359-367. doi: 10.1002/ajim.23090. Epub 2020 Jan 18.
BACKGROUND: Total paper dust exposure has been associated with respiratory problems among workers in the soft tissue paper industry. However, a comprehensive job exposure matrix (JEM) has not been developed for application to this industry. Our study was intended to address this need and to support further studies of mortality and morbidity in a cohort of Swedish workers from this industry.
METHODS: We evaluated four participating soft tissue paper mills in Sweden. We combined information on process and equipment status from the mills with knowledge of the mills obtained through research efforts and paper dust measurements made at all four mills to develop a semi-quantitative JEM with seven dust exposure levels. The JEM was targeted at workers enrolled into a soft tissue paper mill cohort and working any time between 1960 and 2009.
RESULTS: The JEM includes a total of 14 421 cells, with each cell corresponding to the exposure for a job title, department, or work location for a one-year period. Exposure levels in the JEM were estimated to decline at three of the four mills from 1971 to 2009, but overexposures (ie, exceedances of the relevant occupational exposure limits) remained common at the end of the period.
CONCLUSIONS: The JEM results highlight the need for ongoing exposure control efforts in the soft tissue paper industry, and will inform ongoing epidemiological studies of the health effects of exposure to paper dust in Sweden. It is freely available for use by other researchers.