OBJECTIVE--The aim was to examine the long term morbidity experience of men exposed to 2,3,7,8-tetrachlorodibenzo-p-dioxin (TCDD). METHODS--A retrospective cohort morbidity study of 158 men first exposed to TCDD between 17 November 1953 and 16 November 1954 subdivided by chloracne state and back calculated TCDD blood lipid concentration, and 161 referents. Cause specific illness absence and admissions to hospital were examined between 1953 and 1989. RESULTS--On an ever or never basis, thyroid disease and appendicitis were diagnosed more often in the study group; these diseases were not differentially distributed by chloracne state, but were increased in the high TCDD subgroup. An 18% increase in total illness episodes was also seen (p = 0.002); illness rates increased with severity of chloracne and higher TCDD concentration within the chloracne subgroup. There were increases in infectious and parasitic diseases (primarily ill defined intestinal infections), disorders of the peripheral nervous system and sense organs, upper respiratory tract infections, and other skin diseases. Several of these increases correlated with chloracne state and infections disease episodes increased with higher TCDD concentration as well. Occurrences of mental disorders correlated with severity of chloracne, but not TCDD concentration. Benign and unspecified neoplasms were marginally increased in the severe chloracne and high TCDD subgroups. Chronic liver disease was marginally increased in the high TCDD subgroup. Findings relative to occurrence of ulcers, chronic lung disease, and kidney and metabolic disorders were unremarkable. DISCUSSION--For various conditions, increased illness episodes were seen among TCDD exposed employees compared with referents and were associated with either or both chloracne severity and back calculated TCDD concentration. The results are derived from insurance data; hence, it is possible that heightened awareness and personal health concerns led to greater utilisation of medical services in the exposed group. The findings based on TCDD concentration should be less subject to this potential bias.
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