Background: Assessment by experts may be the best method available for retrospective occupational exposure measurement in community-based studies. This study was undertaken to examine the validity of occupational exposure assessment by comparing the ratings of experienced raters with previously recorded industrial hygiene measurements.
Methods: We obtained 50 measurements from industrial hygiene records, covering a variety of jobs and substances and created 47 job descriptions around these measurements. Three raters were asked to assess exposure to a checklist of 19 substances (including those substances which had been measured). We estimated the sensitivity of the raters in correctly detecting those substances known to have been present.
Results: Using a liberal criterion for the ratings, the average sensitivity among the raters was 90%. Using a more stringent criterion, the average sensitivity was 73%. Among substances coded as present, the raters were quite accurate in rating the relative concentration and frequency of exposure.
Conclusions: This trial demonstrated that a team of experienced raters could successfully characterize jobs in which important exposures occurred.
Copyright 2003 Wiley-Liss, Inc.