Researchers have just performed one of the first analyses of occupational exposure to chemical substances according to gender. They used epidemiological data coming from two studies, one on lung cancer and the other on breast cancer, which covered 1,657 men and 2,073 women in the Montreal region around the end of the 1990s. The researchers estimated and compared the proportions and exposure levels of men and women by occupation for 243 toxic substances which had been coded in each of the two studies.
Due to their employment, men were considered likely to be more exposed, in particular, to vehicle exhaust gases, petroleum fractions (petroleum components recovered in a distillation tower), polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), building material dusts and abrasive dusts. In the case of women, this involves dusts from fabrics, textile fibres, ammonia, formaldehyde and other aliphatic aldehydes. These exposure profiles confirm those of a New Zealand study published in 2011.
But most of these differences in exposure proportions disappear when the analysis takes into account the occupation. By examining precisely some 4,269 points of comparison relating to the exposure of men and women within a given occupational group, it proved that only 3.1% showed pronounced differences according to gender, without any obvious explanation.
To sum up, it is necessary to perform stratified analyses on gender to gain a better perception of gender differences in the area of occupational exposure and injuries, concludes the main author of the study, France Labrèche, epidemiologist at the Robert-Sauvé occupational safety and health research institute (IRSST).