Diesel Engine Exhaust Exposure in the Ontario Construction Industry


The goal of this study is to measure levels exposure to diesel engine exhaust among workers in the Ontario construction industry.

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Diesel engine exhaust is a complex mixture of gases and particulates. Exposure to diesel exhaust increases the risk of a number of health effects, including respiratory disease and cancer. Very little is known about the level of exposure to diesel engine exhaust in the construction industry. CAREX Canada estimates that almost 30,000 Ontario construction workers are exposed to diesel engine exhaust at work. This may occur when working with or around diesel-powered equipment, especially in areas with poor ventilation, such as enclosed or below-grade worksites. Despite this, there is currently no occupational exposure limit for diesel engine exhaust that applies to the Ontario construction industry.


This study will assess inhalation exposure to diesel particulate matter (measured as elemental carbon) as a surrogate for diesel engine exhaust. Participating Ontario construction workers will wear sampling equipment to collect diesel particulate matter over the course of a full work shift, and will complete a questionnaire about their work tasks. Participating worksites will be identified with the help of the study collaborators: Infrastructure Health and Safety Association, Provincial Building and Construction Trades Council of Ontario, and Alberici Constructors.


Without information on level of exposure it is nearly impossible to prioritize prevention strategies, target enforcement activities, assess the impact of new regulation, or otherwise reduce future cases of occupational disease. This project will provide a baseline measure of exposure level in construction, which could help inform the selection of appropriate control measures as well as the development of occupational exposure levels or other policies to reduce exposure.

Progress (updated April 2020)

Sampling is complete and data analysis is underway.


This study is funded by a grant from the Ministry of Labour, Training and Skills Development’s Occupational Health, Safety and Prevention Innovation Program (OHSPIP).

Research Team
Victoria Arrandale, Paul Demers, Sheila Kalenge, Nicola Blagrove-Hall, Kate Jardine, Stephanie Ziembicki, Tracy Kirkham
University of British Columbia
Hugh Davies, Melanie Gorman-Ng
Alberta Health Services
Cheryl Peters
Ryerson University
Thomas Tenkate
Infrastructure Health and Safety Association
Provincial Building and Construction Trades Council of Ontario
Alberici Constructors