A geographical association between respiratory cancer and air pollution from steel foundries has been shown previously in Scotland and elsewhere. In the present study the iron-founding town of Kirkintilloch was found to have standardised mortality ratios (SMRs) for respiratory cancer in 1959-63, 1964-8, and 1969-73 that were unexceptional in comparison with Scotland. Nevertheless, when SMRs were calculated for respiratory cancer for the period 1966-76 in five zones of the town arranged, a priori, according to probable exposure to fumes from two iron foundries, and in the individual enumeration districts of the 1971 census, higher SMRs were found in the residential areas most exposed to pollution from the foundries. The gradient of the zones' SMRs--high close to the foundries to low at some distance from them--persisted despite standardisation of the SMRs for social class. A survey of the concentrations of several metals in soil cores sampled at 51 sites throughout the town showed a pattern of pollution that probably illustrated the effects of prevailing winds and topography on the pollution plumes from the foundries. The value of sampling soil cores in investigations where historical sources of metallic air pollution are of epidemiological interest was emphasised by the detection of high concentrations of Ni in an area where a nickel refinery had been located many decades previously.
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