J Expo Sci Environ Epidemiol. 2018 Nov;28(6):615-648. doi: 10.1038/s41370-018-0037-x. Epub 2018 May 23.
Job exposure matrices (JEMs) represent a useful and efficient approach for estimating occupational exposures. This study uses a large dataset of full-shift measurements and employs imputation strategies to develop noise exposure estimates for almost all broad level standard occupational classification (SOC) groups in the US. The JEM was constructed using 753,702 measurements from the government, private industry, and the published literature. Parametric Bayes imputation was used to take advantage of the hierarchical structure of the SOCs and the mean occupational noise exposures were estimated for all broad level SOCs, except those in major group 23-0000, for which no data were available. The estimated posterior mean for all broad SOCs was found to be 82.1 dBA with within- and between-major SOC variabilities of 22.1 and 13.8, respectively. Of the 443 broad SOCs, 85 were found to have an estimated mean exposure >85 dBA while 10 were >90 dBA. By taking advantage of the size and structure of the dataset, we were able to employ imputation techniques to estimate mean levels of noise exposure for nearly all SOCs in the US. Possible sources of errors in the estimates include misclassification of job titles due to limited data, temporal variations that were not accounted for, and variation in exposures within the same SOC. Our efforts have resulted in an almost completely populated noise JEM that provides a valuable tool for the assessment of occupational exposures to noise. Imputation techniques can lead to maximal use of available information that may be incomplete.