SYN-JEM: A Quantitative Job-Exposure Matrix for Five Lung Carcinogens

Ann Occup Hyg. 2016 Aug;60(7):795-811. doi: 10.1093/annhyg/mew034. Epub 2016 Jun 9.


Objective: The use of measurement data in occupational exposure assessment allows more quantitative analyses of possible exposure-response relations. We describe a quantitative exposure assessment approach for five lung carcinogens (i.e. asbestos, chromium-VI, nickel, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (by its proxy benzo(a)pyrene (BaP)) and respirable crystalline silica). A quantitative job-exposure matrix (JEM) was developed based on statistical modeling of large quantities of personal measurements.

Methods: Empirical linear models were developed using personal occupational exposure measurements (n = 102306) from Europe and Canada, as well as auxiliary information like job (industry), year of sampling, region, an a priori exposure rating of each job (none, low, and high exposed), sampling and analytical methods, and sampling duration. The model outcomes were used to create a JEM with a quantitative estimate of the level of exposure by job, year, and region.

Results: Decreasing time trends were observed for all agents between the 1970s and 2009, ranging from -1.2% per year for personal BaP and nickel exposures to -10.7% for asbestos (in the time period before an asbestos ban was implemented). Regional differences in exposure concentrations (adjusted for measured jobs, years of measurement, and sampling method and duration) varied by agent, ranging from a factor 3.3 for chromium-VI up to a factor 10.5 for asbestos.

Conclusion: We estimated time-, job-, and region-specific exposure levels for four (asbestos, chromium-VI, nickel, and RCS) out of five considered lung carcinogens. Through statistical modeling of large amounts of personal occupational exposure measurement data we were able to derive a quantitative JEM to be used in community-based studies.

Keywords: asbestos exposure; chromium; exposure assessment; exposure assessment—mixed models; nickel; polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons; respirable crystalline silica; retrospective exposure assessment.

MeSH terms

  • Air Pollutants, Occupational / analysis*
  • Asbestos / analysis
  • Canada
  • Carcinogens / analysis*
  • Chromium / analysis
  • Europe
  • Humans
  • Lung Neoplasms / etiology*
  • Nickel / analysis
  • Occupational Exposure / analysis*
  • Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons / analysis
  • Silicon Dioxide / analysis


  • Air Pollutants, Occupational
  • Carcinogens
  • Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons
  • Chromium
  • Asbestos
  • Silicon Dioxide
  • Nickel