Setting occupational exposure limits in humans: contributions from the field of experimental psychology

M.A.M. Smeets, J.H.A. Kroeze, P.M. Dalton

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

9 Citations (Scopus)


Psychophysical methods from the field of experimental psychology are evaluated for their utility in the derivation of occupational exposure limits (OELs) for volatile chemicals based on acute sensory irritation in humans. The lateralization threshold method, which involves the localization of trigeminal vapor to the stimulated nostril, is evaluated for its underlying assumptions, reliability and validity. Whole body exposures, on the other hand, which involve the controlled, ambient exposure of human subjects to the irritant at one or a series of concentrations for an extended period are also discussed. It is concluded that the single-organ psychophysical method is largely resistant to response bias is practical and economical. However, its reliability and validity need further assessment. Whole body exposures, while having enhanced ecological validity, are more prone to demand characteristics, response bias, and subject beliefs than the traditional psychophysical procedures. An approach that involves the exposure of only the most sensitive organs such as the eyes and nose, via a mask or facebox, could facilitate the administration and alternation of odorant/irritant stimuli over a wide range of concentrations while enhancing ecological validity.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)299-307
JournalInternational Archives of Occupational and Environmental Health
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 2006


  • irritation thresholds
  • temporal integration
  • nasal pungency
  • eye irritation
  • psychometric function
  • sensory irritation
  • spatial summation
  • perceived odor
  • sensitivity
  • chemicals


Dive into the research topics of 'Setting occupational exposure limits in humans: contributions from the field of experimental psychology'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this