Occupational Safety and Health Administration OSHA

Asphalt (Bitumen) Fumes

Asphalt (Bitumen) Fumes - Photo Credit: iStock.com-28642988 | Copyright: TravisPhotoWorks
Asphalt Fumes Menu

Possible Solutions

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), (December 6, 1995). 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, (September 2007). 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), (January 1981). 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. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS), National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) Publication No. 2003-112, (October 2003). 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. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS), National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) Publication No. 97-105, (January 1997). Part I New Highway-Class Pavers. 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), (June 1994). Provides questions to train workers who work with hot asphalt.
  • Emission Factors 11.2: Mineral Products Industry - Asphalt Roofing. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), (January 1995). 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:
Case Studies
  • Spartan Paving Company, Lansing, Michigan. National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) Health Hazard Evaluation (HHE) Report No. HETA-94-0365-2563, (March 1996). 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 conventional asphalt.
  • 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, (May 1982). 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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