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Epidemiologic Challenges for Studies of Occupational Exposure to Engineered Nanoparticles; A Commentary

Eisen, Ellen A. ScD; Costello, Sadie PhD; Chevrier, Jonathan PhD; Picciotto, Sally PhD

Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine: June 2011 - Volume 53 - Issue - p S57–S61
doi: 10.1097/JOM.0b013e31821bde98
Epidemiologic Research: Original Article

Objective: Identify most likely health effects of occupational exposure to engineered nanoparticles (ENP). Recommend analytic approaches to address epidemiologic challenges.

Methods: Review air pollution and occupational literature on health effects of fine particulate matter (PM). Provide example of mortality study of exposure to PM composed of metalworking fluid. Apply standard Cox models and g-estimation to adjust for potential healthy worker survival effect (HWSE).

Results: In contrast with standard methods, g-estimation suggests that exposure to PM may cause chronic heart and lung disease; longer exposure reduces survival. HWSE appears stronger for chronic disease than for cancer.

Conclusions: We recommend hazard surveillance, short-term panel studies of biomarkers, and prospective cohort studies of cardiovascular and respiratory diseases. Building research capacity in g-estimation methods to reduce HWSE is necessary for future studies of chronic disease and ENP.

From the Environmental Health Sciences, School of Public Health, University of California Berkeley.

Address correspondence to: Ellen A. Eisen, ScD, Environmental Health Sciences, School of Public Health, University of California Berkeley, Berkeley, California 94720-7360. E-mail:

Copyright © 2011 by the American College of Occupational and Environmental Medicine