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Keywords:

  • lung cancer;
  • mortality;
  • chromate exposures;
  • hexavalent chromium;
  • occupational health surveillance

Abstract

A retrospective cohort study was conducted to examine the risk of mortality, cancer, and other adverse health outcomes, at the United States' largest chromate chemicals manufacturing facility in Castle Hayne, North Carolina. This facility, built in 1971, was designed to reduce the high levels of chromium exposure found at most older facilities. Exposure assessment was based on analysis of more than 5,000 personal breathing zone samples collected over a 15-year period. A questionnaire was used to collect relevant occupational, medical, smoking, and other information from current and former employees. Analysis of the cohort's mortality experience found no substantial departures from that expected based on external comparisons, although evidence of a healthy worker effect was observed. Internal cohort analyses were limited by relatively small numbers; however, a subgroup of employees who transferred from older facilities was found to have higher risks of mortality (odds ratio = 1.27 for each 3 years of previous exposure; 90% confidence interval (CI) = 1.07–1.51) and cancer (odds ratio = 1.22 for each 3 years of previous exposure; 90% CI = 1.03–1.45). While this subgroup represented only 11% of the individuals in this study, they accounted for 46% (6/13) of all observed cancers (excluding skin cancers) and 60% (3/5) of lung cancers. There was no increased risk of mortality or cancer among employees who worked only at the newer facility. As an etiologic research study, the results are limited by the relatively small number of subjects and short follow-up; nevertheless, the findings can be used to design and implement a prospective surveillance system for monitoring the health of chromate production workers. © 1994 Wiley-Liss, Inc.