Assessment of Occupational Exposure to Organic Flame Retardants: A Systematic Review

Background: Flame retardants (FRs) are widespread in common goods, and workers in some industries can be exposed to high concentrations. Numerous studies describe occupational exposure to FRs, but the diversity of methods and of reported results renders their interpretation difficult for researchers, occupational hygienists, and decision makers.
Objectives: The objectives of this paper are to compile and summarize the scientific knowledge on occupational exposure to FRs as well as to identify research gaps and to formulate recommendations.
Methods: Five databases were consulted for this systematic literature review (Embase, Medline [Pubmed], Global health, Web of Science, and Google Scholar), with terms related to occupational exposure and to FRs. Selected studies report quantitative measurements of exposure to organic FRs in a workplace, either in air, dust, or in workers' biological fluids. The Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic reviews and Meta-Analyses statement guidelines were followed.
Results: The search yielded 1540 published articles, of which 58 were retained. The most frequently sampled FRs were polybrominated diphenyl ethers and novel brominated FRs. Offices and electronic waste recycling facilities were the most studied occupational settings, and the highest reported exposures were found in the latter, as well as in manufacturing of printed circuit boards, in aircrafts, and in firefighters. There were recurrent methodological issues, such as unstandardized and ill-described air and dust sampling, as well as deficient statistical analyses.
Conclusions: This review offers several recommendations. Workplaces such as electronic waste recycling or manufacturing of electronics as well as firefighters and aircraft personnel should be granted more attention from researchers and industrial hygienists. Methodical and standardized occupational exposure assessment approaches should be employed, and data analysis and reporting should be more systematic. Finally, more research is needed on newer chemical classes of FRs, on occupational exposure pathways, and on airborne FR particle distribution.

Source: Gravel, S., Aubin, S. et Labrèche, F. (2019). Annals of work exposures and health, 63, 386-406.
https://doi.org/10.1093/annweh/wxz012

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