A mortality (1942-80) study was carried out on 13460 workers of a factory producing friction materials. The only type of asbestos used was chrysotile, except during two well-defined periods before 1945 when crocidolite was used, and over 99% of the population was traced. Compared with national death rates there were no detectable excesses of deaths due to lung cancer, gastrointestinal cancer, or other cancers; 11 deaths were due to pleural mesothelioma. A case-control study was carried out on deaths due to mesothelioma; this showed that eight workers had been exposed to crocidolite and another was possibly exposed intermittently to crocidolite. The other two had been employed for most of their working lives outside the factory, and their mesotheliomas could not be definitely attributed to exposure to chrysotile. Limiting the study to cases and controls who had exposure to 5 fibres/ml of chrysotile asbestos it was found that five of the six cases compared with two of the 10 controls had also been exposed to crocidolite. The probability (1:36) of this occurring were there no association with crocidolite is most unlikely. A case-control study was also carried out on deaths due to lung cancer and gastrointestinal cancer to investigate the dose-response relationships between these tumours and exposure to chrysotile. Measured and estimated fibre concentrations were available for the different jobs over the period of the study. No dose-response relationships were observed, but the exposures were low with only 5% of men accumulating 100 fibre-years/ml. The experience at this factory over a 40-year period showed that chrysotile asbestos was processed with no detectable excess mortality.
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