OBJECTIVES--To identify and quantify any relations between occupational exposure to cadmium oxide fume and mortalities from lung cancer and from chronic non-malignant diseases of the respiratory system. METHODS--The mortality experience of 347 copper cadmium alloy workers, 624 workers employed in the vicinity of copper cadmium alloy work (vicinity workers), and 521 iron and brass foundry workers (all men) was investigated for the period 1946-92. All subjects were first employed in these types of work in the period 1922-78 and for a minimum period of one year at one of two participating factories. Two analytical approaches were used, indirect standardisation and Poisson regression. RESULTS--Compared with the general population of England and Wales, mortality from lung cancer among copper cadmium alloy workers was close to expectation (observed deaths 18, expected deaths 17.8, standardised mortality ratio (SMR) 101, 95% confidence interval (95% CI) 60 to 159). A significant excess was shown for lung cancer among vicinity workers but not among iron and brass foundry workers (vicinity workers: observed 55, expected 34.3, SMR 160, 95% CI 121 to 209, P < 0.01; iron and brass foundry workers: observed 19, expected 17.8, SMR 107, 95% CI 64 to 167). Increased SMRs for non-malignant diseases of the respiratory system were shown for each of the three groups (alloy workers: observed 54, expected 23.5, SMR 230, 95% CI 172 to 300, P < 0.001; vicinity workers: observed 71, expected 43.0, SMR 165, 95% CI 129 to 208, P < 0.001; iron and brass foundry workers: observed 34, expected 17.1, SMR 199, 95% CI 137 to 278, P < 0.01). Work histories of the copper cadmium alloy workers were combined with independent assessments of cadmium exposures over time to develop individual estimates of cumulative exposure to cadmium; this being a time dependent variable. Poisson regression was used to investigate risks of lung cancer and risks of chronic non-malignant diseases of the respiratory system in relation to three levels of cumulative cadmium exposure (< 1600, 1600-4799, > or = 4800 micrograms.m-3.y). After adjustment for age, year of starting alloy work, factory, and time from starting alloy work, there was a significant positive trend (P < 0.01) between cumulative exposure to cadmium and risks of mortality from chronic non-malignant diseases of the respiratory system. Relative to a risk of unity for the lowest exposure category, risks were 4.54 (95% CI 1.96 to 10.51) for the middle exposure category and 4.74 (95% CI 1.81 to 12.43) for the highest exposure category. There was a non-significant negative trend between cumulative cadmium exposure and risks of mortality from lung cancer. Relative to a risk of unity for the lowest exposure category, risks were 0.85 (95% CI 0.27 to 2.68) for the middle exposure category and 0.81 (95% CI 0.18 to 3.73) for the highest exposure category. Similar findings were obtained when adjustment was made for age only. CONCLUSIONS--The findings are consistent with the hypothesis that exposure to cadmium oxide fume increases risks of mortality from chronic non-malignant diseases of the respiratory system. The findings do not support the hypothesis that exposure to cadmium oxide fume increases risks of mortality for lung cancer.
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