It is known that 6505 men and 411 women were employed in the mining and milling of crocidolite at Wittenoom in the Pilbara region of Western Australia between 1943 and 1966. Employment was usually brief (median duration four months) and exposure intense (median estimated cumulative exposure 6 fibres/cc years). The vital status of 73% of the men and 58% of the women employed in the industry was known at 31 December 1980, providing 95 264 person-years of follow up with 820 deaths in men and 4914 person-years with 23 deaths in women. The standardised mortality ratio (SMR) for all causes in men was 1.53 (95% confidence interval 1.43 to 1.64). Statistically significant excess death rates were observed in men for neoplasms, particularly malignant mesothelioma (32 deaths), neoplasms of the trachea, bronchus, and lung (SMR 2.64), and neoplasms of the stomach (SMR 1.90); respiratory diseases, particularly pneumoconiosis (SMR 25.5); infections, particularly tuberculosis (SMR 4.09); mental disorders particularly alcoholism (SMR 4.87); digestive diseases, particularly peptic ulceration (SMR 2.46) and cirrhosis of the liver (SMR 3.94); and injuries and poisonings, particularly non-transport accidents (SMR 2.36). The excess mortality from pneumoconiosis, malignant mesothelioma, and respiratory cancers, but not stomach neoplasms, was dependent on time since first exposure and cumulative exposure. There was no increase in mortality from laryngeal cancer (SMR 1.09) or neoplasms other than those listed. The SMR for all causes in women was 1.47 (95% confidence interval 0.98-2.21) and for neoplasms 1.99; there was one death from malignant pleural mesothelioma.
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