The controversy surrounding the potential cancer-causing effects of asphalt fume exposures experienced during hot roofing work has existed for almost 35 years. But the debate recently took a positive turn with the publication of a quantitative risk assessment (QRA) of asphalt roofing fumes. The assessment was sponsored by NRCA, the Asphalt Institute (AI) and Asphalt Roofing Manufacturers Association (ARMA), who are partners in the Asphalt Roofing Environmental Council (AREC).
In October 2011, a panel of 16 scientists convened by the World Health Organization's International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) found "occupational exposures to oxidized bitumens and their emissions during roofing are probably carcinogenic to humans (Group 2A)."
Although NRCA and its partners believe IARC's finding was wrong, the result was not all that surprising given the policy orientation of government scientists about the assessment of workplace and environmental health hazards. About a decade before IARC announced its findings, the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) found "roofing asphalt fumes" to be a "potential occupational carcinogen." IARC declared a number of everyday exposures to be possible, probable or known carcinogens, including coffee, alcohol, cell phones, caffeic acid (a compound present naturally in a wide variety of fruits and vegetables), and, in November 2015, red meat and processed meats such as hot dogs and bacon.