A Risk Assessment for Occupational Acrylonitrile Exposure Using Epidemiology Data


*Address correspondence to Thomas B. Starr, TBS Associates, 7500 Rainwater Road, Raleigh NC 27615-3700; tel: 919-8760203; tbstarr@mindspring.com.


The extensive data from the Blair et al.(1) epidemiology study of occupational acrylonitrile exposure among 25,460 workers in eight plants in the United States provide an excellent opportunity to update quantitative risk assessments for this widely used commodity chemical. We employ the semiparametric Cox relative risk (RR) regression model with a cumulative exposure metric to model cause-specific mortality from lung cancer and all other causes. The separately estimated cause-specific cumulative hazards are then combined to provide an overall estimate of age-specific mortality risk. Age-specific estimates of the additional risk of lung cancer mortality associated with several plausible occupational exposure scenarios are obtained. For age 70, these estimates are all markedly lower than those generated with the cancer potency estimate provided in the USEPA acrylonitrile risk assessment.(2) This result is consistent with the failure of recent occupational studies to confirm elevated lung cancer mortality among acrylonitrile-exposed workers as was originally reported by O'Berg,(3) and it calls attention to the importance of using high-quality epidemiology data in the risk assessment process.