Over a half-million workers are exposed to fumes from asphalt, a petroleum product used extensively in road paving, roofing, siding, and concrete work. Health effects from exposure to asphalt fumes include headache, skin rash, sensitization, fatigue, reduced appetite, throat and eye irritation, cough, and skin cancer.
There are currently no specific OSHA standards for asphalt fumes. Exposures to various chemical components of asphalt fumes are addressed in specific standards for the general and construction industries, such as personal protective equipment (PPE). This section highlights OSHA standards, preambles to final rules (background to final rules) and standard interpretations (official letters of interpretation of the standards) related to asphalt fumes.
Note: Twenty-five states, Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands have OSHA-approved State Plans and have adopted their own standards and enforcement policies. For the most part, these States adopt standards that are identical to Federal OSHA. However, some States have adopted different standards applicable to this topic or may have different enforcement policies.
General Industry (29
Construction Industry (29 CFR 1926)
- Natural or mined asphalts do not fall within the scope of the Coal Tar Pitch Volatiles Standard. (1983, May 26). Natural or mined asphalts do not fall within the scope of the Coal Tar Pitch Volatiles (CTPV) Standard. Again, the CTVP Standard, as stated in 29 CFR 1910.1002, applies to emissions only from products that are residues of distillation processes. Thus, "natural" or mined asphalts, which are not distillation residues, do not fall under the CTPV standard.
- Petroleum asphalt removed from coverage under the Coal Tar Pitch Volatiles Standard. (1983, April 8). OSHA believes that removal of petroleum asphalt from coverage under the Coal Tar Pitch Volatiles (CTPV) Standard was appropriate based on both scientific and technical considerations. Data indicate that there are qualitative and quantitative chemical differences between the volatiles arising from coal tar and asphalt. OSHA does recognize, however, that asphalt
fumes can present a health hazard to employees.
- Citations for the wearing of short pants engaged in hot tar and asphalt construction work. (1997, April 17). Compliance officers will be instructed to balance the need for personal protective clothing, such as long pants, during hot asphalt operations against the need for clothing that is appropriate for severe environmental conditions such as extremely warm weather.
- Search all available standard interpretations.
Exposure to asphalt fumes can cause serious injury and permanent damage. Workers that may be exposed to asphalt fumes need to be aware of the potential hazards in their work environment. The following references aid in recognizing asphalt fume hazards in the workplace.
- Criteria for a Recommended Standard: Occupational Exposure to Asphalt Fumes. US Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS), National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) Publication No. 78-106, (1977, September). Provides links to documents containing information on occupational exposure to asphalt fumes.
- TOXNET for Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons. The National Library of Medicine Hazardous Substance Database.
- Report on Carcinogens (ROC). US Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS), National Toxicology Program (NTP). Identifies and discusses agents, substances, mixtures, or exposure circumstances that may pose a health hazard due to their carcinogenicity. The listing of substances in the RoC only indicates a potential hazard and does not establish the exposure conditions that would pose cancer risks to individuals.
- International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) Monographs on the Evaluation of Carcinogenic Risks for Humans [65 KB PDF, 18 pages]. World Health Organization, International Agency for Research on Cancer, (1998).
- ToxFAQs for Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons (PAHs). Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR), (1996, September). Answers the most frequently asked health questions about polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), a component of concern in asphalt.
- Health Effects of Occupational Exposure to Asphalt. US Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS), National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) Publication No. 2001-110, (2001). Reviews current scientific data on health effects related to occupational exposures to asphalt, describes further research needs in this area, and suggests measures to minimize worker exposures while studies continue.
- Asphalt Emissions including Fumes. National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) Workplace Safety and Health Topic. Links to resources that provide safety and health information relevant to asphalt fumes.
- Crumb-Rubber Modified Asphalt Paving: Occupational Exposure and Acute Health Effects [615 KB PDF, 51 pages]. National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) Health Hazard Evaluation (HHE) Report No. HETA-2001-0536-2864, (2001). The study protocol included the following objectives: develop and field test new methods to assess asphalt fume exposures, characterize and compare occupational exposures to crumb-rubber modified (CRM) asphalt and conventional (CONV) asphalt and evaluate potential health effects associated with CRM asphalt and CONV asphalt. Seven site evaluations were completed between 1994 and 1997. These have been reported separately in individual HHE Reports. The numerous paving jobs were evaluated for exposure concentrations and worker health symptoms, comparing CRM asphalt paving with CONV paving.
- NIOSHTIC-2. National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH). NIOSHTIC-2 is a searchable bibliographic database of occupational safety and health publications, documents, grant reports, and journal articles supported in whole or in part by NIOSH. Contains a list of references pertaining to asphalt fumes.
- Mineral Products Industry. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Compilation of Air Pollutant Emission factors AP-42, 5th ed., Volume I, Chapter 11. Contains information and process overviews of hot mix asphalt and roofing material plants and the emissions and controls associated with these processes.
- Jane Y. C. Ma, et al. "Inhalation Exposure of Rats to Asphalt Fumes Generated at Paving Temperatures Alters Pulmonary Xenobiotic Metabolism Pathways without Lung Injury." Environmental Health Perspectives (EHP) 111.9(2003, July).
- For additional information, see OSHA’s Safety and Health Topics Page on:
- Chemical Sampling Information. OSHA, (1999, January 14). Presents, in concise form, data on a large number of chemical substances that may be encountered in industrial hygiene investigations. Basic reference for industrial hygienists engaged in OSHA field activity.
- OSHA Occupational Chemical Database. OSHA maintains this chemical database as a convenient reference for the occupational safety and health community. It compiles information from several government agencies and organizations. This database originally was developed by OSHA in cooperation with EPA.
- Asphalt Fume Exposures During the Manufacture of Asphalt Roofing Products. US Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS), National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) Publication No. 2001-127, (2001, August). Increases awareness among plant managers, safety and health professionals, and engineers of the potential for occupational exposure to asphalt and asphalt fumes during the manufacturing of asphalt roofing products.
- An Explosion in an Asphalt Patching Truck. Professional and Specialized Services, Ministry of Labour, (1996, January). Describes an explosion that occurred while an operator was cleaning an asphalt patching truck. Control measures and precautions to prevent similar incidents are discussed.
- Reducing Roofers' Exposure to Asphalt Fumes. US Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS), National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) Publication No. 2003-107, (2003, September). Provides a guide for roofers and contractors who work with hot asphalt on roofs, including steps for reducing exposure to asphalt fumes.
National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH)
- NIOSH Manual of Analytical Methods (NMAM). US Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS), National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) Publication No. 2003-154, (2003). NMAM is a collection of methods for sampling and analysis of contaminants in workplace air, and in the blood and urine of workers who are occupationally exposed. NMAM also includes chapters on quality assurance, sampling, portable instrumentation, etc.
After performing an exposure assessment, measures of control for worker safety can be put into the right places. Controlling exposures to asphalt fumes can be done through engineering controls, administrative actions, and personal protective equipment (PPE). Engineering controls include heating systems that maintain a constant asphalt temperature and emission capture and destruction devices consisting of a vent or exhaust system that evacuates fumes from the headspace inside the kettle. Administrative actions include substituting low-fuming asphalt and limiting the worker's exposure time. Personal protective equipment includes following all applicable OSHA
requirements for wearing the proper respiratory protection and clothing. The following references aid in controlling and preventing asphalt fumes in the workplace.
- Cleaning of Asphalt Truck Hopper with Diesel Fuel. OSHA Hazard Information Bulletin (HIB), (1995, December 6). Compliance and consultation personnel should be aware of the recommended procedure checklist to control the hazards of improper cleaning of asphalt trucks which can result in an explosion.
- NIOSH Pocket Guide to Chemical Hazards. National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) Publication No. 2005-149, (2007, September). Provides physical description, exposure limits, measurement method, personal protection & sanitation, first aid, respirator recommendations, exposure routes, symptoms, target organs, and cancer sites.
- Occupational Health Guidelines for Chemical Hazards. National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), (1981, January). Contains information on identification, physical and chemical properties, health hazards, exposure limits, exposure sources and control methods, monitoring, personal hygiene, storage, spills and leaks, and personal protective equipment.
- Asphalt Fume Exposures During the Application of Hot Asphalt to Roofs. US Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS), National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) Publication No. 2003-112, (2003, October). Represents the collaborative efforts of industry, labor, and government to reduce worker exposures to asphalt fumes during the application of hot asphalt to roofs. Also, describes the application of hot asphalt to roofs, identifies steps in the process that may involve worker exposure to asphalt fumes, and identifies current engineering controls and work practices used to reduce exposures.
- Engineering Control Guidelines for Hot Mix Asphalt Pavers. US Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS), National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) Publication No. 97-105, (1997, January). Also available as a 508 KB PDF, 31 pages. Presents guidelines for implementing engineering controls that reduce highway asphalt fumes at the source.
- Asphalt Training Guide. Electronic Library of Construction Occupational Safety and Health (eLCOSH), (1994, June). Provides questions to train workers who work with hot asphalt.
- Asphalt Roofing [255 KB PDF, 12 pages]. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), (1995, January). Contains an overview of the manufacturing process of asphalt roofing materials and the emissions and controls associated with the industry.
- For additional information on general safety and health concerns, see OSHA’s Safety and Health Topics Page on:
- Spartan Paving Company, Lansing, Michigan [517 KB PDF, 51 pages]. National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) Health Hazard Evaluation (HHE) Report No. HETA-94-0365-2563, (1996, March). As part of a study on occupational exposure to crumb rubber modified (CRM) asphalt and conventional asphalt, an investigation was conducted. Asphalt fume emissions were below current NIOSH recommended exposure limits or other relevant criteria, however during the CRM asphalt paving, the workers reported an eight-fold increase in the number of health
symptoms and a 14-fold increase in symptoms per hours, compared with
- West Virginia University Medical Center, Morgantown, West Virginia. National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) Health Hazard Evaluation (HHE) Report No. HETA-82-253-1301, (1982, May). Area samples were collected for asphalt fumes and fractions at a roofing project. Some employees had complained of odors and were concerned about possible health effects. Based on the sample analysis, NIOSH concluded that a significant asphalt fume hazard did not exist for the employees of the medical center; however, headaches, coughing, and hoarseness reported by employees are consistent with exposure to asphalt fumes. A specific area should be designated for the placement of the asphalt cauldron to minimize contamination of the fresh air ventilation intake by asphalt fumes.
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