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Mortality among employees at a plastics and resins research and development facility.
  1. S R Cowles,
  2. S P Tsai,
  3. E L Gilstrap,
  4. C E Ross
  1. Shell Oil Company, Corporate Medical Department, Houston, Texas 77252-2463.


    OBJECTIVES--The study was undertaken to update a previous study of employees from a resins and plastics research and development facility and to further examine the mortality of these employees with particular emphasis on deaths due to pancreatic cancer. METHODS--This retrospective cohort study examined mortality from 1962 to 1992 for 257 men who were employed for at least one year during a 14 year period from 1962 to 1975 at a plastics and resins research and development facility. During the operative period, the primary activities involved applications and process development for polypropylene, polystyrene, epoxy resins, and to a lesser extent high density polyethylene. RESULTS--The cohort was young and was followed up for an average of 26 years. Although mortality for all causes among employees who worked at least one year at this facility was low (standardised mortality ratio (SMR) 0.74), the death rate from cancer was moderately higher than that of the general population (14 observed and 9.4 expected deaths). There were four observed and 0.5 expected deaths from pancreatic cancer among men who worked at this facility for at least one year, which resulted in a statistically increased SMR of 8.88 (95% confidence interval 2.42-22.74). All cases of pancreatic cancer had "laboratory" jobs, and their ages at death were relatively young compared with deaths in the general population from pancreatic cancer. Lung cancer mortality was high but not significant with seven observed and 3.5 expected deaths. There were no deaths due to non-malignant respiratory disease (1.9 expected). CONCLUSIONS--The increased cancer mortality was entirely due to excess deaths from pancreatic and lung cancers. No causative agent or process for these cases of pancreatic cancer has been identified. This study shows no increased colorectal cancer mortality as was found among another group of workers involved in the manufacture of polypropylene.

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