In 1979 all former workers from the Wittenoom asbestos industry who could be traced to an address were sent a questionnaire to determine smoking history. Occupational exposure to crocidolite was known from employment records. Of 2928 questionnaires sent, satisfactory replies were received from 2400 men and 149 women. Eighty per cent of these had smoked at some time and 50% were still smoking. Since that time 40 cases of lung cancer and 66 cases of compensatable asbestosis have occurred in this cohort. The incidence of both lung cancer and asbestosis was greatest in those subjects with the highest levels of exposure to crocidolite and in ex-smokers. Statistical modelling of the joint effects of these exposures on the incidence of each disease indicated that crocidolite exposure multiplied the rates of lung cancer due to smoking and that smoking has no measurable effect on the rates of asbestosis. There was also some evidence that the incidence rate of lung cancer is falling with time.
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