Objectives: An attempt was made to develop a database for measurements of exposure to solvents that could be used as a tool in the historical exposure assessment of commercial painters participating in a health surveillance program.
Methods: The measurement data on personal exposure from six studies still available for Dutch commercial painters were collected into a database. The database was analyzed to identify time trends for the inhalation exposure levels of hydrocarbons and the production conditions that influence exposure levels among commercial painters in The Netherlands.
Results: Altogether 304 measurements of solvent exposure were collected between 1980 and 1999, providing data for 137 workers. Toluene was selected as a marker for solvent exposure, since hydrocarbon exposures appeared to be strongly correlated. Exposure to toluene measured during the application of solvent-based paints has declined by 12% per year. The use of solvent-based paints, painting in small rooms, house (versus shipyard) painting, and spray-painting were associated with increased exposures. Water-based paint was also associated with increased exposure to toluene, relative to tasks in which no paint was used. The exposure model for toluene explained 86% of the between-worker variance. In a subset of the data, we observed that a single cell model did not adequately describe total solvent exposure among painters, because of the stronger-than-expected positive effect of source strength and the lack of the protective effect of general ventilation.
Conclusions: An exposure model was developed that can be used to predict the intensity of inhalation exposure to aromatic solvents among commercial painters in The Netherlands.