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Kolb, Stefanie; Brueckner, Ulrike; Nowak, Dennis; Radon, Katja: Quantification of ETS exposure in hospitality workers who have never smoked. In: Environmental Health 2010, 9:49




Background: Environmental Tobacco Smoke (ETS) was classified as human carcinogen (K1) by the German Research Council in 1998. According to epidemiological studies, the relative risk especially for lung cancer might be twice as high in persons who have never smoked but who are in the highest exposure category, for example hospitality workers. In order to implement these results in the German regulations on occupational illnesses, a valid method is needed to retrospectively assess the cumulative ETS exposure in the hospitality environment. Methods: A literature-based review was carried out to locate a method that can be used for the German hospitality sector. Studies assessing ETS exposure using biological markers (for example urinary cotinine, DNA adducts) or questionnaires were excluded. Biological markers are not considered relevant as they assess exposure only over the last hours, weeks or months. Self-reported exposure based on questionnaires also does not seem adequate for medico-legal purposes. Therefore, retrospective exposure assessment should be based on mathematical models to approximate past exposure. Results: For this purpose a validated model developed by Repace and Lowrey was considered appropriate. It offers the possibility of retrospectively assessing exposure with existing parameters (such as environmental dimensions, average number of smokers, ventilation characteristics and duration of exposure). The relative risk of lung cancer can then be estimated based on the individual cumulative exposure of the worker. Conclusion: In conclusion, having adapted it to the German hospitality sector, an existing mathematical model appears to be capable of approximating the cumulative exposure. However, the level of uncertainty of these approximations has to be taken into account, especially for diseases with a long latency period such as lung cancer.