A proportionate mortality ratio (PMR) study was conducted using data on workers from three local unions representing an integrated automobile factory composed of forge, foundry, and engine (machine and assembly) plants. Ninety four percent of the death certificates were obtained for all active and non-active workers who died during the period 1 January 1970 to 31 December 1979 and were vested in union and company benefit programmes. Observed numbers of deaths were compared with expected numbers based on two standards, the proportionate mortality among men in the United States 1970-9 and among men in Erie County 1975. There was close agreement between the number of observed and expected deaths by either standard of comparison among white auto workers in the forge and foundry plants. Valid analyses of cause specific mortality among non-whites could be conducted for the foundry plant only. Although there was raised PMR for deaths due to diseases of the circulatory system using the Erie County standard, none of the other cause specific PMRs was significant. Although based on small numbers, the risk of cancer of the lung was significantly high in non-whites under age 50 in the foundry (PMR = 2.6; p less than 0.05). The cause specific PMRs for whites in the engine plant were statistically significant for malignant neoplasms (1.2) and all external causes (0.62) based on the US white male standard. Analysis of cancer specific mortality among white men in the machining/assembly plant showed significant excesses for cancer of the digestive system (PMR=1.5), particularly of the liver (PMR=2.6) and pancreas (PMR=1.9); cancers of the respiratory system (PMR=1.4 using the Erie County standard); and cancer of the urinary bladder (PMR=2.3). Workers employed for more than 20 years showed statistically increased mortality ratios for cancers of the digestive system (1.9), particularly cancer of the pancreas (2.3) and cancer of the rectum (2.8). Individuals whose employment began during or before 1950 exhibited increased PMRs for cancers of the digestive organs (1.8), particularly of the pancreas (2.5) and of the bladder (3.4). Workers whose employment began after 1950, on the other hand, exhibited raised PMRs for cancers of the respiratory system (1.5) and of the kidney (3.2). Since the foundry and forge plants did not start production until 1955, mortality associated with those work settings may be greater in the future.
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