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Persisting risk of nickel related lung cancer and nasal cancer among Clydach refiners


Objective: To evaluate the risk of lung cancer and nasal cancer among workers employed at the Clydach nickel refinery, South Wales since 1930 by combining data from the two most recently published papers on this cohort.

Methods: Observed and expected numbers of cancer deaths were extracted for workers who had a minimum of five years service and were employed for the first time between 1902 and 1992. Standardised mortality ratios (SMR) were calculated for subgroups according to year of employment, time since first employment, and process work.

Results: A persisting excess of respiratory cancer was found for workers employed in the period 1930–92, with a lung cancer SMR of 133 (95% CI 103 to 172) and a SMR for nasal cancer of 870 (95% CI 105 to 3141). The lung cancer excess was most clearly seen 20 years or more after first employment and seemed to be confined to process workers. There was no indication of a further reduction in risk since 1930.

Conclusion: The extreme nickel related cancer hazard at the refinery before 1920 was greatly reduced during subsequent years. Some of the carcinogenic exposures seem to have remained after 1930, producing an elevated risk of nasal cancer and a 30% excess of lung cancer in the workforce. There was evidence of a persisting risk among process workers first employed since 1953.

  • lung cancer
  • nickel refinery
  • respiratory cancer
  • sinonasal cancer

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