A review of the effectiveness of respirators in reducing exposure to polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons for coke oven workers
ObjectivesIn 2011 recommendations for the prescription of lung cancer in coke oven workers was made. In the 1970s, helmet respirators, in this case the Airstream helmet, were
introduced to the UK coke industry with the main aim of reducing exposure to polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAH) aerosols for workers on the coke oven tops.
This review aimed to identify the level of protection achieved by the Airstream helmet and when the helmets could be considered to have provided effective protection and whether the levels of protection have been maintained to the current time.
MethodsFive approaches were taken to identify review material, including searching the peerreviewed and grey literature; searching of archive materials; using a Freedom of
Information requests to government agencies; interviews with employees involved in the introduction of the Airstream helmet and acquisition of company reports.
ResultsThe UK companies involved in coke production took different approaches to the introduction of the Airstream helmets. Because of this, it can only be considered that
effective wear occurred in the industry from 1982 onwards. The exposure measurements made by British Steel in the late 1970s suggest that the mean protection factor of the Airstream helmet was approximately 10, regardless of whether exposure was assessed as the inhalable aerosol or other measures more specific to the aerosol PAH. More recent data collected using biological monitoring has identified that average urinary levels of 1-hydroxypyrene generally correspond with the inhalation occupational exposure limit for benzene soluble material, although on occasion high urinary PAH levels have been identified, underlining the necessity to maintain close supervision of workers wearing respirators.
ConclusionsOverall we concluded that the wearing of helmet respirators has and continues to effectively control exposure to PAH for most workers on coke ovens.