- Safety and Health Topics
- Asphalt (Bitumen) Fumes
Asphalt (Bitumen) Fumes
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 and letters of interpretation (official letters of interpretation of the standards) related to asphalt fumes.
General Industry (29 CFR 1910)
- 1910 Subpart I, Personal protective equipment
- 1910.132, General requirements [related topic page]
- 1910.134, Respiratory protection [related topic page]
- Appendix A, Fit testing procedures (Mandatory)
- Appendix B-1, User seal check procedures (Mandatory)
- Appendix B-2, Respirator cleaning procedures (Mandatory)
- Appendix C, OSHA respirator medical evaluation questionnaire (Mandatory)
- Appendix D, Information for employees using respirators when not required under standard (Mandatory)
Construction Industry (29 CFR 1926)
- 1926 Subpart E, Personal Protective and Life Saving Equipment
Letters of Interpretation
- Citations for the wearing of short pants engaged in hot tar and asphalt construction work. (April 17, 1997). 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.
- Natural or mined asphalts do not fall within the scope of the Coal Tar Pitch Volatiles Standard. (May 26, 1983). 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. (April 8, 1983). 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.
Occupational Exposure Levels
There is no OSHA standard or permissible exposure level of asphalt fumes, although a 5 mg/m3 permissible exposure limit (PEL) was proposed in 1992. OSHA's quantitative risk assessment estimated a significant risk of lung cancer among exposed workers at levels as low as 0.2 mg/m3. The American Conference of Governmental Industrial Hygienists (ACGIH) currently recommends a Threshold Limit Value (TLV) of 0.5 mg/m3 as an 8-hour time weighted average. NIOSH currently recommends no more than 5 mg/m3 for a maximum exposure per 15-minute short-term exposure in addition to assigning a carcinogenicity designation. See NIOSH Pocket Guide to Chemical Hazards, Appendix A - NIOSH Potential Occupational Carcinogens for the latest policy and guidelines for this designation.