Ann Work Expo Health. 2022 Jan 7;66(1):14-26. doi: 10.1093/annweh/wxab063.
OBJECTIVES: Paper dust has previously been linked to adverse health effects. However, a comprehensive dataset of paper dust exposures does not appear to have been published previously. Our study was intended to address this need by describing a large dataset of measurements made in Swedish soft tissue paper mills.
METHODS: We compiled personal and area total dust exposure measurements collected from a range of operations by our research staff at four soft tissue paper mills in Sweden. We also compiled measurements made by the occupational health staff at each mill and the Swedish Work Environment Authority. We analyzed these measurements to describe patterns and trends in exposures and used mixed-effects regression models to identify measurement characteristics that predicted exposure levels.
RESULTS: We compiled 1578 measurements from 1971 to 2009, of which 1026 (65%) were personal samples. Statistically significant differences were found between measurements made by research, mill, and Swedish Work Environment Authority staff, as well as between personal and area measurements. The measurement data suggest that, beginning in the 1980s, exposures declined at three of the four mills, but that overexposures were still common at the end of the period. Papermaking and converting operations had the highest observed dust exposures. One mill had significantly lower exposures than the others. Type of measurement (personal versus area) and source of measurement (research staff, company, or regulatory agency) were not significant predictors of measured total dust exposure after controlling for mill, operation, and time.
CONCLUSIONS: Our analysis of measured paper dust exposures may be useful for historical and contemporary exposure assessment in our own and other epidemiological studies. We have identified specific characteristics (i.e. papermaking operations and mill) and time trends that are important data features to consider, and documented continuing overexposure situations. Our results highlight the ongoing need for application of exposure controls to reduce paper dust exposures in the soft tissue paper industry.