Paper: A survey of exposure data availability in Canada

Author(s) and Affiliation(s):
Amy L Hall, CAREX Canada, University of British Columbia
Paul A. Demers, CAREX Canada, University of British Columbia
Cheryl E. Peters, CAREX Canada, University of British Columbia
Hugh W. Davies, CAREX Canada, University of British Columbia
Day/Time: Friday at 13:30
Room: St. David Room, 3rd Floor

CAREX Canada is a national carcinogen exposure surveillance project based at the University of British Columbia. An integral part of this project is the Canadian Workplace Exposure Database (CWED) which will house measured Canadian workplace exposure data and allow the characterization of exposure levels and trends by occupation and industry. In 2009 we surveyed Canadian regulatory agencies (provincial, territorial and national) to obtain a clearer picture of the quantity and quality of exposure data available.


CAREX Canada has already acquired large volumes of exposure data held by five Canadian public agencies, including WorksafeBC, the Ontario Ministry of Labour and the National Radiation Dose Registry. In March of 2009, the 11 remaining national, provincial and territorial workplace regulatory agencies were contacted by a CAREX Canada hygienist and asked about current and historical collection practices, estimated volume of data holdings, data storage format (hard copy vs. electronic database), and data retention policies.


Out of the 11 regulatory agencies contacted, three hold essentially no exposure data, due to short retention policies combined with scant present-day workplace sampling. Of the eight remaining agencies confirmed to possess data, seven indicated that the majority of their exposure data holdings are stored in unwieldy formats (i.e. hard copy or individual electronic files). Quebec and Human Resources Services Development Canada are the only regions currently collecting significant amounts of exposure data; most other provincial and territorial agencies collect anywhere from zero to 200-300 measurements annually. Retention policies for archived data vary across agencies and occasionally by substance.


There is a wide range in the accessibility of workplace exposure data across regulatory agencies in Canada, due to variation in database formats, differing data retention policies, and a significant decrease in workplace exposure sampling performed by regulatory bodies since the 1990s. This has made exposure data relatively inaccessible from a research point of view. Although limited in scope, the results of this survey show downward trends in the availability of historical and prospective workplace exposure data in Canada. This does not bode well for effective exposure surveillance to inform research and evidence-based policy development for regulation and primary prevention.