Lung cancer mortality among 1152 men working at three English chromate pigment factories was studied from the 1930s or 1940s until 1981. Workers at factory C were exposed only to lead chromate and experienced normal mortality (Obs/Exp deaths 7/6.45). Workers at factories A and B were exposed to both lead and zinc chromate; mortality was normal among those who had only low exposure (O/E 7/6.95). For workers with high or medium exposure lung cancer mortality was significantly raised among men remaining at least a year after entering service at factory A during 1932-54 (O/E 21/9.45) and at factory B during 1948-67 (O/E 11/2.50). At factory A, 1933-46 entrants staying only 3-11 months were not affected (O/E 6/5.04) and 1955-63 entrants also appeared unaffected (O/E 2/2.00); working conditions there improved in 1955. The hazard at factories A and B affected workers who left after one year as well as those with longer service, and latent intervals were unusually short. The results indicate that moderate or heavy exposure to zinc chromate may give rise to a severe risk of developing lung cancer, but that exposure which is relatively mild or lasts less than a year may not constitute an effective risk. The results provide no indication that lead chromate induces lung cancer in man, even under conditions conducive to lead poisoning.
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