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Mortality in the UK industrial silica sand industry: 2. A retrospective cohort study
  1. T P Brown,
  2. L Rushton
  1. Medical Research Council Institute for Environment and Health, 94 Regent Road, Leicester, LE1 7DD, UKMedical Research Council Institute for Environment and Health, Leicester, UK
  1. Correspondence to:
 Dr T P Brown
 Medical Research Council Institute for Environment and Health, 94 Regent Road, Leicester LE1 7DD, UK;


Aims: To evaluate the mortality experience of a cohort of employees in the UK silica sand industry exposed to respirable crystalline silica (RCS).

Methods: A retrospective cohort mortality study followed all workers to 2001 with at least one year’s employment at one of seven UK silica sand producing quarries between 1950 and 1986. Each worker was assigned a job category and cumulative exposure to RCS was estimated using a job-exposure matrix.

Results: A total of 764 deaths were identified in 2703 cohort members. The overall mortality rate for the cohort was lower than would be expected in the general population. Mortality from circulatory and respiratory disease was also less than expected, but death due to pneumoconiosis was slightly raised (two deaths). Mortality from all cancers was slightly decreased. Mortality was not raised in any job category. Cancer mortality was raised at one quarry due to a significant increase in lung (standardised mortality rate (SMR) 162.0, 95% CI 113.5 to 224.3) and bladder (SMR 366.5, 95% CI 167.6 to 695.7) cancers. Mortality from lung cancer and other causes did not show a trend with cumulative exposure to RCS.

Conclusions: This study did not show any consistent relation between RCS exposure (in the absence of other known carcinogens) and the development of lung cancer. This contrasts with a number of studies that have shown positive findings in similar and related industries.

  • CI, confidence interval
  • COPD, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease
  • JEM, job-exposure matrix
  • NMRD, non-malignant respiratory disease
  • RCS, respirable crystalline silica
  • SMR, standardised mortality ratio
  • silica
  • industrial sand industry
  • mortality
  • lung cancer
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  • Competing interests: none declared

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