Objective: The authors examined the long-term health effects of occupational exposure to acrylamide among production and polymerisation workers.
Methods: An earlier study of 371 acrylamide workers was expanded to include employees hired since 1979. In this updated study, 696 acrylamide workers were followed from 1955 through 2001 to ascertain vital status and cause of death. Exposure to acrylamide was retrospectively assessed based on personal samples from the 1970s onwards and area samples over the whole study period.
Results: Fewer of the acrylamide workers died (n = 141) compared to an expected number of 172.1 (SMR 81.9, 95% CI 69.0 to 96.6). No cause-specific SMR for any of the investigated types of cancer was exposure related. The authors did, however, find more pancreatic cancer deaths than expected (SMR 222.2, 95% CI 72.1 to 518.5). With respect to non-malignant disease, more diabetes deaths were observed than expected (SMR 288.7, 95% CI 138.4 to 531.0). To assess the influence of regional factors, the analysis was repeated with an internal reference population. The elevated SMR for diabetes persisted.
Conclusion: This study provides little evidence for a cancer risk from occupational exposure to acrylamide at production facilities. However, the increased rates of pancreatic cancer in this study and another larger study of acrylamide production workers indicate that caution is needed to rule out a cancer risk. The authors believe that the excess of diabetes mortality in this study is most likely not related to acrylamide exposure, because a larger study of acrylamide workers reported a deficit in this cause of death. The authors conclude that the increased SMR for diabetes mortality is probably not related to regional influences.
- ESS, Epidemiological Surveillance System
- SMR, standardised mortality ratio
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