A pilot study of the mortality of railway workers was undertaken to evaluate the feasibility of studying the association of exposure to diesel exhaust and cause specific mortality. The cohort consisted of 2519 white male subjects aged 45-64 with at least 10 years of railway service by 1967. Subjects were selected on the basis of job classification, and cause specific mortality was ascertained for subjects who died (n = 501) up to 1979. The total follow up period was 28.4 (X 1000) person-years. The standardised mortality ratio (SMR) for the cohort, based on United States national rates, was 87 (95% confidence limits 80, 95), and there were no significant differences from expected number of deaths for any specific neoplasm. The directly standardised rate ratio for respiratory cancer among diesel exposed subjects relative to unexposed subjects was 1.42 +/- 0.50 (means +/- SE). A proportional hazards model was consistent with the findings of the standardised rate ratio, but in neither analysis was the increased risk of respiratory cancer in diesel exposed subjects statistically significant.
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