OBJECTIVES: Concern about the health hazards of exposure to workers in the ferroalloy industry has initiated this historical cohort study. The aim was to examine the mortality pattern among male employees in 12 Norwegian ferroalloy plants. METHODS: All men employed for at least six months who started their first employment during 1933-91 were eligible for the cohort. Deaths observed during 1962-90 were compared with expected figures calculated from national mortalities. Internal comparisons of rates were performed by Poisson regression analysis. The final cohort comprised 14,730 male employees who were observed for 288,886 person-years. RESULTS: Mortality from all causes of death was slightly increased (3390 deaths, standardised mortality ratio (SMR) 1.08, 95% confidence interval (95% CI) 1.04-1.11). Regression analysis of total mortality showed a significant negative trend for the rate ratios with increasing duration of employment. An increased mortality was found among employees in urban plants compared with employees in rural plants (rate ratio (RR) 1.21, 95% CI 1.13-1.29). Excess deaths from cancer (SMR 1.11) and sudden death (SMR 1.47) were found among employees with at least three years of employment. Mortality from accidents, poisonings, and violence was increased among all employees (SMR 1.28). Excess deaths from this cause were however only found for the time after the end of employment in this industry and not during employment (SMR 0.90). CONCLUSIONS: The increased mortality from cancer and sudden death could be related to work exposures, at least in subgroups, and these results warrant further studies. The excess deaths from accidents, poisonings, and violence were probably not related to work exposures. The mortality results for short term workers and other information indicate that systematic errors contribute to the increased overall mortality.
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