Asbestos has been widely used in the refinery and petrochemical sector. Mesothelioma has occurred among maintenance employees, and it was hypothesized that mesothelioma is a marker for exposures which might increase lung cancer risk. A death certificate-based case-control study of mesothelioma and lung cancer from 1980 to 1992 was conducted in an Ontario county with a substantial presence of these industries. Each of the 17 men who died of mesothelioma and 424 with lung cancer were matched with controls who died of other causes. The Job and Industry fields on the death certificates were abstracted. Employment as a maintenance worker in the refinery and petrochemical sector was associated with an increased risk of mesothelioma (odds ratio: 24.5; 90% confidence interval 3.1-102). The risk of lung cancer among petrochemical workers, in comparison with all other workers in the county, was 0.88. In an internal comparison of maintenance employees with other blue-collar workers in the refinery and petrochemical sector, the odds ratio for lung cancer was 1.73 (90% confidence interval 0.83-3.6). This finding is consistent with no difference in risk between maintenance and other employees, but it is also compatible with study power being too low to achieve statistical significance. The hypothesis of increased lung cancer risk could be examined more fully with nested case-control studies in existing cohorts. Meanwhile, it would be prudent to reinforce adherence to asbestos control measures in the refinery and petrochemical sector.
To study mortality in a cohort of members of the United Association of Journeymen and Apprentices of the Plumbing and Pipe Fitting Industry of the United States and Canada and to compare results with two previous proportional mortality studies.
A cohort of 25,285 workers who entered the trade after 1949 was assembled from records of the international head office. Mortality was ascertained by linkage to the Canadian Mortality Registry at Statistics Canada. Standardised mortality ratios were computed using Ontario general population mortality rates as the reference.
There were significant increases in lung cancer mortality rates (SMR 1.27; 95% CI 1.13 to 1.42). Increased lung cancer risk was observed among plumbers, pipefitters, and sprinkler fitters. Increased risk was observed among workers joining the Union as late as the 1970s. A random effects meta-analysis of this study and the two PMR studies found significant increases in oesophageal (RR 1.24; 95% CI 1.00 to 1.53), lung (RR 1.31; 95% CI 1.19 to 1.44), and haematological/lymphatic (RR 1.21; 95% CI 1.08 to 1.35) malignancies.
The mortality pattern is consistent with the effects of occupational exposure to asbestos. Increased risk due to other respiratory carcinogens such as welding fume cannot be excluded. There are substantial amounts of asbestos in place in industrial and commercial environments. The education and training of workers to protect themselves against inhalation hazards will be necessary well into the future.
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Workers' concerns about an excess of cancer in an electric arc steelmaking operation were investigated. In comparison with men who had worked elsewhere in the plant, an increased risk of lung cancer death was observed among men who had been employed in the melt shop. The hypothesis that the association might be related to occupational exposures is supported by the persistence of the association when the hypothesis-generating cases were removed from the analysis (p = 0.063) and by a significant trend in the risk of lung cancer with years of exposure in the melt shop. No air sampling had been performed in earlier years. Current environmental analyses in the melt shop found no polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (detection limit: 0.001 mg/m3), and silica levels were below 0.1 mg/m3. The carcinogenic metals arsenic and chromium were detected, but their concentrations in earlier years are unknown.
Mortality was studied among a group of 328 employees of an Ontario asbestos-cement factory who had been hired before 1960 and who had been employed for a minimum of nine years. The group of 87 men who had worked in the rock wool/fibre glass operations, or who had been otherwise minimally exposed to asbestos, had mortality rates similar to those of the general Ontario population, while the group of asbestos-exposed employees had all-cause mortality rates double those of the Ontario population, mortality rates due to malignancies five times higher than expected, and deaths attributed to lung cancer eight times more frequent than expected. According to the best evidence available, 10 of 58 deaths among the production workers were due to malignant mesothelioma and 20 to lung cancer. The men dying of mesothelioma were younger than the men dying of lung cancer with mean ages at death of 51 and 64 years respectively. An exposure model was constructed on the basis of the available air sampling data, and individual exposure histories were calculated. These exposure histories were used to investigate the exposure-response relationships for asbestos-associated malignancies.
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