A follow-up study of synthetic rubber workers
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Although 1,3-butadiene (BD) has been classified as an animal carcinogen, epidemiologic research has reported inconsistent results on the relationship between BD and lymphopoietic and other cancers in humans. This study evaluated the mortality experience of 15649 men employed for at least 1 year at any of eight North American styrene-butadiene rubber (SBR) plants. About 75% of the subjects were exposed to BD; 83% were exposed to styrene (STY). During 1943-1991, the cohort had a total of 386172 and an average of 25 person-years of follow-up, with 3976 deaths observed compared to 4553 deaths expected based on general population mortality rates (standardized mortality ratio (SMR) = 87, 95% confidence interval (CI) = 85-90). More than expected leukemia deaths occurred in the overall cohort (48 observed/37 expected, SMR = 131, CI = 97-174) and among ever hourly subjects (45/32, SMR = 143, CI = 104-191). The excess was concentrated among ever hourly subjects with 10+ years worked and 20+ years since hire (28/13, SMR = 224, CI = 149-323) and among subjects in polymerization (15/6.0, SMR = 251, CI = 140-414), maintenance labor (13/4.9, SMR = 265, CI = 141-453) and laboratories (10/2.3, SMR = 431, CI = 207-793), three areas with potential for relatively high exposure to BD or STY monomers. Some cohort sub-groups had slight increases in deaths from lymphopoietic cancers other than leukemia, but mortality patterns by race, years worked and process group within the SBR industry did not indicate a causal association with occupational exposures. These results indicate that exposures in the SBR industry cause leukemia.
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