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Sex ratios of births, mortality, and air pollution: can measuring the sex ratios of births help to identify health hazards from air pollution in industrial environments?
  1. F L Williams,
  2. S A Ogston,
  3. O L Lloyd
  1. Department of Epidemiology and Public Health, Ninewells Hospital and Medical School, Dundee.


    OBJECTIVES--To compare the sex ratios of births and mortality in 12 Scottish localities with residential exposure to pollution from a variety of industrial sources with those in 12 nearby and comparable localities without such exposure. METHODS--24 localities were defined by postcode sectors. SMRs for lung cancer and for all causes of death and sex ratios of births were calculated for each locality for the years 1979-83. Log linear regression was used to assess the relation between exposure, sex ratios, and mortality. RESULTS--Mortalities from all causes were consistently and significantly higher in the residential areas exposed to air pollution than in the non-exposed areas. A similar, but less consistently significant, excess of mortality from lung cancer in the exposed areas was also found. The associations between exposure to the general air pollution and abnormal sex ratios, and between abnormal sex ratios and mortality, were negligible. CONCLUSIONS--Sex ratios were not consistently affected when the concentrations or components of the air pollution were insufficiently toxic to cause substantially increased death rates. Monitoring of the sex ratio does not provide a reliable screening measure for detecting cryptic health hazards from industrial air pollution in the general residential environment.

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