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Occup Environ Med 61:295-304 doi:10.1136/oem.2003.007831
  • Original article

Mortality patterns among residents in Louisiana’s industrial corridor, USA, 1970–99

  1. S P Tsai1,
  2. K M Cardarelli2,
  3. J K Wendt1,
  4. A E Fraser1
  1. 1Shell Oil Company, Shell Health Services–USA, One Shell Plaza, PO Box 2463, Houston, Texas, USA
  2. 2The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston, School of Public Health, Houston, Texas, USA
  1. Correspondence to:
 Dr S P Tsai
 Shell Oil Company, Shell Health Services–USA, One Shell Plaza, PO Box 2463, Houston, Texas 77252-2463, USA; shan.tsaishell.com
  • Accepted 7 May 2003

Abstract

Background: Because of the high concentration of oil refining and petrochemical facilities, the industrial area of the lower Mississippi River of South Louisiana has been termed the Industrial Corridor and has frequently been referred to as the “Cancer Corridor”.

Aims: To quantitatively assess the “Cancer Corridor” controversy based on mortality data available in the public domain, and to identify potential contributing factors to the observed differences in mortality.

Methods: Age adjusted mortality rates were calculated for white and non-white males and females in the Industrial Corridor, Louisiana, and the United States for the time periods 1970–79, 1980–89, and 1990–99.

Results: All-cause mortality and all cancer combined for white males in the Industrial Corridor were significantly lower than the corresponding Louisiana population while Louisiana had significantly higher rates than the US population for all three time periods. Cancer of the lung was consistently higher in the Industrial Corridor region relative to national rates but lower than or similar to Louisiana. Non-respiratory disease and cerebrovascular disease mortality for white males in the Industrial Corridor were consistently lower than either Louisiana or the USA. However, mortality due to diabetes and heart disease, particularly during the 1990s, was significantly higher in the Industrial Corridor and Louisiana when compared to the USA. Similar mortality patterns were observed for white females. The mortality for non-white males and females in the Industrial Corridor was generally similar to the corresponding populations in Louisiana. There were no consistent patterns for all cancer mortality combined. Stomach cancer was increased among non-whites in both the Industrial Corridor and Louisiana when compared to the corresponding US data. Mortality from diabetes and heart disease among non-whites was significantly higher in the Industrial Corridor and Louisiana than in the USA.

Conclusions: Mortality rates in the Industrial Corridor area were generally similar to or lower than the State of Louisiana, which were increased compared to the United States. Contrary to prior public perceptions, mortality due to cancer in the Industrial Corridor does not exceed that for the State of Louisiana.

Footnotes