Revista Panamericana de Salud Pública
Print version ISSN 1020-4989
ESPINOSA, Maria Teresa et al. Determining exposure history in occupational epidemiology. Rev Panam Salud Publica [online]. 2005, vol.18, n.3, pp. 187-196. ISSN 1020-4989. http://dx.doi.org/10.1590/S1020-49892005000800006.
In epidemiology, it is necessary that exposure indicators have good validity in order to obtain valid results when measuring the risks associated with occupational exposure to environmental noxious agents. However, ensuring the validity of past exposure data is no easy task. Because there are no environmental hygiene measures or representative levels of bioindicators signaling past exposure, self-reports have been used as a source of indirect exposure data. Unfortunately, data on specific agents are commonly poor and need to be complemented with data on the determinants of exposure. The validity of self-reports improves when certain techniques, such as control lists and icons, are employed, and the quality of individual exposure data improves when secondary data on exposure and its conditioning or determining factors are incorporated. Exposure can be determined by means of exposure matrices, assessment by experts, and exposure models, and by using a combination of primary and secondary data on exposure and its conditioning factors. Matrices contain pooled data and can thus lead to errors in classifying individual exposure and to biased risk estimates. Assessment by experts is probably the method with the highest validity, but it can become expensive when studies are large. It is also feasible to use a formal model for assessing perceivable exposures, complemented with expert assessments whenever the results of the model appear to deviate from reality.
Keywords : Occupational risk; epidemiologic methods; risk assessment.