Former employees at a large automotive electronics manufacturing facility in Alabama, U.S.A. raised concerns over a suspected excess of cancer mortality among their fellow workers. The United Autoworkers (UAW) union sought the help of epidemiologists to investigate these concerns.
A cohort of 4396 workers employed at the facility between 1972 and 1993 was enumerated. Demographic and employment history information was obtained from union records. Follow-up to ascertain information about vital status and causes of death was conducted through 2016 drawing upon records of the U.S. Social Security Administration, pension records, voter registration records, and the U.S. National Death Index. Interviews with former employees have identified lead-based solder and chlorinated organic solvents as exposures of concern during the assembly of printed computer boards. Concerns were also raised about the presence of asbestos in the workplace. The mortality experience of the cohort is compared to expectations based upon national and regional reference rates using classical standardised mortality ratios as well as more novel comparisons of cumulative incidence (i.e., complement of survival) curves. Analyses also allow for internal comparisons according to job status and race.
We will report on preliminary results describing the characteristics and overall mortality experience of this cohort as part of our ongoing investigation, which is an example of a joint effort between the UAW and academic epidemiologists to directly address the health concerns of autoworkers using a cost- and time-efficient study design.
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