Objectives: To develop a method to reconstruct exposure to tetrafluoroethylene (TFE) and ammonium perfluorooctanoate (APFO) in plants producing polytetrafluoroethylene (PTFE) in the absence of suitable objective measurements. These data were used to inform an epidemiological study being carried out to investigate possible risks in workers employed in the manufacture of PTFE and to study trends in exposure over time.
Methods: For each plant, detailed descriptions of all occupational titles, including tasks and changes over time, were obtained during semi-structured interviews with key plant personnel. A semi-quantitative assessment method was used to assess inhalation exposure to TFE and inhalation plus dermal exposure to APFO. Temporal trends in exposure to TFE and APFO were investigated.
Results: In each plant the highest exposures for both TFE and APFO occurred in the polymerisation area. Due to the introduction of control measures, increasing process automation and other improvements, exposures generally decreased over time. In the polymerisation area, the annual decline in exposure to TFE varied by plant from 3.8 to 5.7% and for APFO from 2.2 to 5.5%.
Conclusions: A simple method for assessing exposure was developed which used detailed process information and job descriptions to estimate average annual TFE and APFO exposure on an arbitrary semi-quantitative scale. These semi-quantitative estimates are sufficient to identify relative differences in exposure for the epidemiological study and should good data become available, they could be used to provide quantitative estimates for all plants across the whole period of operation.
This journal is © The Royal Society of Chemistry 2012