A cohort was established in 1981 of all 7317 white male employees in the amosite and crocidolite mines in South Africa whose names had appeared in the personnel records (initiated between 1945 and 1955) of the major companies. Some of the men had been employed as early as 1925, but only 8% had had more than 10 years of service. Three subcohorts were defined: 3212 men whose only exposure to asbestos was to amosite; 3430 exposed to crocidolite; and 675 to both amphiboles. No deaths or losses to view occurred before 1946, and 5925 men (81%) were known to be alive at the end of 1980. Losses to view numbered 167 (2%), and there had been 1225 deaths (17%), an excess of 331 over the number of deaths expected on the basis of the mortality of all white South African males. The fibre related excesses were of mesothelioma, lung cancer, and other respiratory diseases, but there were other excesses perhaps mainly related to socioeconomic factors including lifestyle. When cause of death was determined according to "best evidence" (after study of clinical, radiological, biopsy, and necropsy reports in conjunction with the death certificate), there were 30 deaths due to mesothelioma (22 pleural, six peritoneal, two other) and 65 due to cancer of trachea, bronchus, and lung. Various analyses of these deaths showed that crocidolite had higher toxicity than amosite for lung cancer and this was most pronounced for mesothelioma; there can now be no question that crocidolite is far more dangerous than amosite at least in so far as mesothelioma is concerned. Nevertheless, crocidolite induced mesothelioma appeared only in men who had been exposed for long periods, at least 12 months, but on average about 15 years.
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