An epidemiological study was undertaken to determine whether the animal carcinogen, epichlorohydrin (ECH), produces cancer in man. A total of 863 workers with probable exposure to ECH at two chemical plants during 1948-65 were followed up for deaths up to 1983. Twenty years or more after first exposure the all cancer SMR was 112.2 (22 deaths) and the SMR for leukaemia was 500.0 (three deaths), which is statistically significant. All cancer, leukaemia, and most other causes of death were related to estimated levels of exposure to ECH, except violence. The most consistent (both plants) relation was between exposure level and heart disease. Overall, the heart disease SMR 20 years or more after first exposure was 39.2 (five deaths) for low exposure and 105.4 (17 deaths) for high exposure. Limited evidence of a cardiovascular disease relation to ECH production in one other epidemiological study is supported by this study. Allyl chloride used in the production of ECH may play a part. The relation of heart disease and exposure does not appear to be an artifact, although the fact that many other causes of death were also related to exposure argues against a causal relation.
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