Original article

Scand J Work Environ Health 2022;48(6):479-489    pdf full text

https://doi.org/10.5271/sjweh.4040 | Published online: 13 Jun 2022, Issue date: 01 Sep 2022

Time trends in occupational exposure to chemicals in Sweden: proportion exposed, distribution across demographic and labor market strata, and exposure levels

by Gustavsson P, Wiebert P, Tinnerberg H, Bodin T, Linnersjö A, Hed Myrberg I, Albin M, Selander J

Objective This study investigated time trends in occupational exposure to various chemicals in Sweden and the distribution across demographic and labor market sectors.

Methods Exposure to six chemicals was investigated from 1980 to 2013 by application of a job exposure matrix to national population registers. Respirable crystalline silica (RCS), diesel engine exhaust, welding fumes, wood dust, chlorinated hydrocarbon solvents, and lead were selected to represent different groups of chemicals. Trends in exposure prevalence were investigated by linear regression and compared to the occupationally active population. Confidence intervals for the rate of change over time were obtained by bootstrapping.

Results The proportion of workers born outside the Nordic countries increased over time in those exposed to RCS, diesel exhaust and wood dust. There was a shift of exposed jobs to small companies (<50 employees), especially for RCS, welding fumes, wood dust, and chlorinated hydrocarbon solvents. For RCS and welding fumes, there was a marked drop in exposure levels from 1980 to 1990 but small changes thereafter. Exposure to lead diminished, both in terms of prevalence and intensity.

Conclusions Over time, several exposures tended to shift to small companies, the construction sector, and migrant workers, all factors being indicative of less well-controlled working conditions. Occupational exposure to chlorinated organic solvents and lead diminished, while exposure levels to RCS and welding fumes have changed little since 1990. In view of the serious and well-established negative health effects, increased efforts to reduce exposure to RCS and welding fumes are needed.

This article refers to the following texts of the Journal: 2019;45(6):642-650  2020;46(3):231-234  2022;48(1):1-3
The following article refers to this text: 2023;49(7):526-534
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