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An updated cohort mortality study of workers exposed to styrene in the reinforced plastics and composites industry.
  1. O Wong,
  2. L S Trent,
  3. M D Whorton
  1. Applied Health Sciences, San Mateo, California 94401.


    Mortality data have been updated for a further 12 years for a cohort of workers in the reinforced plastics and composites industry with exposures to styrene monomer and other chemicals. The cohort consisted of 15,826 male and female employees who were exposed to styrene for at least six months between 1948 and 1977 at 30 participating manufacturing plants in the United States. A total of 1628 deaths were reported during the extended observation period, 1948-89. Mortality from several causes showed significant increases--namely, all causes, all cancers, oesophageal cancer, lung cancer, cancer of the cervix uteri, cancer of other female genital organs, hypertensive heart disease, certain non-malignant respiratory diseases, motor vehicle accidents, and homicides. When, however, mortality data were examined in terms of duration of employment, durations of styrene exposure, and cumulative styrene exposure no upward trend was detected in any of these causes of death. Most of the increases in mortality were among workers who were employed for only six months to a year or who had very low cumulative exposure (< 10 ppm-years). Therefore, the increased mortality was not likely to be related to exposure to styrene. Several explanations for the increased mortality are offered, including low socioeconomic class, smoking, and lifestyle factors characteristic of short term workers. There was no increased mortality from lymphatic and haematopoietic cancers overall or from any specific haematological malignancies. In particular, no increase in mortality from non-Hodgkin's lymphoma, Hodgkin's disease, multiple myeloma, or leukaemia was found. Furthermore, detailed exposure-response analyses did not show any relation between exposure to styrene and any of these haematological malignancies. The lack of an exposure-response relation further supports the conclusion that workers in the reinforced plastics industry in this study did not experience any increased risk of lymphatic and haematopoietic cancers as a result of their exposure to styrene.

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