Silicosis still persists as a worldwide problem and becomes a major problem for public health. Since 1995 the ILO/WHO established Global Program for the Elimination of Silicosis. In 2006, at the second international meeting of International Plan for Americas, a proposal to build a map of exposure situation based on a Job of Potential Exposure Matrix (JPEM) to silica as a surveillance methodology was made.
Objectives Estimate the numbers of workers exposed to silica in Brazil, Chile, Venezuela, Peru and Colombia.
Methods A JPEM developed in Brazil and matched with the study in Chile, according to the conception of CAREX database, was applied to workers in Chile, Venezuela, Peru and Colombia.
Results The percentages of workers exposed to crystalline silica were: Brazil (5.6%), Chile (5.4%), Peru (4.9%), Venezuela (5.2%) and Colombia (6.0%). When compare to the percentage of workers exposed in Finland (3.8%), Spain (3.3%), Germany (2.9%) Great Britain (2.6%) and Italy (1.6%), these data shows the relevance of silica dust exposure in the countries with economies based on polluting and health damaging technologies. Historically, this inequality was given by the transfer of obsolete technology and harmful work activities.
Conclusion Traditional surveillance, based only on the identification of cases, does not identify this historic process. Thus, job-exposure matrices are a potentially valuable addition to epidemiologic research methods. If applied judiciously, may contribute to etiologic research and to the identification and control of workplace exposures.
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