Acute effects and exposure to organic compounds in road maintenance workers exposed to asphalt

Am J Ind Med. 1991;20(6):737-44. doi: 10.1002/ajim.4700200604.


Subjective symptoms and exposure to organic compounds were recorded in road repair and construction workers. Abnormal fatigue, reduced appetite, laryngeal/pharyngeal irritation, and eye irritation were recorded more often in such workers handling asphalt than in a corresponding reference group without asphalt exposure. Mean daily exposure to volatile compounds was only occasionally above 1 ppm. Mean exposure to asphalt fume was 0.358 mg/m3. There was no correlation between symptoms and total amount of volatile compounds, but a significant positive correlation was demonstrated between symptoms and some substances. The highest correlation was found for 1, 2, 4 trimethyl benzene. Symptoms increased with increasing asphalt temperature and with increasing concentrations of asphalt fumes. Amine addition did not increase the sum of symptoms, but soft asphalt seems to result in fewer symptoms than the harder types. Symptoms were not related to external factors like weather, traffic density, or specific working operations. As preventive measures, asphalt temperature should be kept below 150 degrees C, fume concentrations below 0.40 mg/m3, and if possible, the use of harder asphalt types which also require high temperatures should be avoided.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Acute Disease
  • Benzene / adverse effects
  • Central Nervous System Diseases / chemically induced
  • Environmental Exposure / adverse effects*
  • Environmental Exposure / prevention & control
  • Humans
  • Hydrocarbons / adverse effects*
  • Occupational Diseases / chemically induced*
  • Occupational Diseases / prevention & control
  • Solvents / adverse effects
  • Surveys and Questionnaires


  • Hydrocarbons
  • Solvents
  • asphalt
  • Benzene