OBJECTIVES: To investigate whether residents near cokeworks have a higher standardised mortality than those further away, particularly from cardiovascular and respiratory causes, which may be associated with pollution from cokeworks. METHOD: Cross sectional small area study with routinely collected postcoded mortality data and small area census statistics. Populations within 7.5 km of 22 cokeworks in Great Britain, 1981-92. Expected numbers of deaths within 2 and 7.5 km of cokeworks, and in eight distance bands up to 7.5 km of cokeworks, were calculated by indirect standardisation from national rates stratified for age and sex and a small area deprivation index, and adjusted for region. Age groups examined were all ages, 1-14, 15-64, 65-74, > or = 75. Only the 1-14 and 15-44 age groups were examined for asthma mortality. RESULTS: There was a 3% (95% confidence interval (95% CI) 1% to 4%) excess of all deaths within 2 km of cokeworks, and a significant decline in mortality with distance from cokeworks. The excess of deaths within 2 km was slightly higher for females and elderly people, but excesses within 2 km and declines in risk with distance were significant for all adult age groups and both sexes. The size of the excess within 2 km was 5% (95% CI 3% to 7%) for cardiovascular causes, 6% (95% CI 3% to 9%) for ischaemic heart disease, and 2% (95% CI -2% to 6%) for respiratory deaths, with significant declines in risk with distance for all these causes. There was a non-significant 15% (95% CI -1% to 101%) excess in asthma mortality in the 15-44 age group. There were no significant excesses in mortality among children but 95% CIs were wide. Within 2 km of cokeworks, the estimated additional excess all cause mortality for all ages combined related to region and mainly to the greater deprivation of the population over national levels was 12%. CONCLUSIONS: A small excess mortality near cokeworks as found in this study is plausible in the light of current evidence about the health impact of air pollution. However, in this study the effects of pollution from cokeworks, if any, are outweighed by the effects of deprivation on weighed by the effects of deprivation on mortality near cokeworks. It is not possible to confidently exclude socioeconomic confounding or biases resulting from inexact population estimation as explanations for the excess found.
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