Cumulative exposures mean chrome standard doesn’t protect

US researchers who investigated the increased risk of lung cancer in workers exposed to chromium VI found that those most at risk, with over three times the risk of dying from the disease, were those who had worked longer in the plants. The authors said this was probably due to their higher cumulative exposure. Because of this, they suggested exposure limits were insufficiently protective, as they didn’t take account of this cumulative effect, noting “these results suggest a potential excess risk of death from lung cancer among US workers exposed to the current permissible exposure limit (PEL) for hexavalent chromium.”

ER Braver and others. An analysis of lung cancer risk from exposure to hexavalent chromium, Teratogenesis, carcinogenesis and metagenesis, volume 5, issue 5, pages 365-378, 1985.


Brake mechanics face asbestos cancer risk

A German research paper described four case of the asbestos cancer mesothelioma in brake mechanics. The cancer had been caused by asbestos dust, a component of brake (and clutch) linings. In 2014, the asbestos industry was still disputing this link.

R Paur and others. Pleural mesothelioma after asbestos dust exposure in brake repair work in automobile repair workshops: case observation, Praxis und Klinik der Pneumologie, volume 39, number 10, pages 362-366, 1985.

Studies show cadmium can cause cancer

Two studies have found excesses of cancers in people working with cadmium. Workers at a Colorado cadmium smelting plant were fund to have double the expected death rate from lung cancer. They noted: “A statistically significant dose-response relationship was observed between lung cancer mortality and cumulative exposure to cadmium.” This was despite a mandatory respirator programme and improvements in ventilation during the period covered by the study. A second study at a British cadmium-nickel battery plant showed increases in both lung and prostate cancers. While the findings were not statistically significant, the authors conclude there is a definite link between cadmium exposures and death from lung and prostate cancers. The paper notes: “A combination of all the available data from the most recent follow up of causes of death among cadmium workers in six different cohorts shows 28 cases of prostatic cancer (SMR = 162) and 195 cases of lung cancer (SMR = 121). This new analysis suggests that long term, high level exposure to cadmium is associated with an increased risk of cancer.”

MJ Thun and others. Mortality among a cohort of US cadmium production workers – an update. Journal of the National Cancer Institute, volume 74, pages 325-333, 1985.

CG Elinder and others. Cancer mortality of cadmium workers, British Journal of Industrial Medicine

Solvents and cancer in the rubber industry

A study of cause of death among 6,678 rubber production workers whose exposure to 25 solvents could be traced confirmed a cancer association. Exposure to carbon tetrachloride, xylene, carbon disulphide, ethyl acetate, acetone and hexane was related to increases in leukaemia and lymphosarcoma. Workers exposed to carbon tetrachloride had a 15 times greater risk and those exposed to carbon disulphide had a nine times greater risk of dying of leukaemia. In an earlier study the same group of workers were found to have increased deaths from stomach and prostate cancer, but these were not found to be related to solvent exposure.

TC Wilcosky and others. Cancer mortality and solvent exposures in the rubber industry, American Industrial Hygiene Association Journal, volume 45, number 12, page 809, 1984.

US study links drycleaning to lung and kidney cancer

A  study have found a high risk of lung and kidney cancers in workers in the drycleaning and laundry industries. The Oklahoma study of 440 workers identified the solvent perchloroethylene as a key suspect. “Results did not show an overall increase in total cancer, but an elevated risk was found for homicide, lung cancer, and kidney cancer.” It comes after two previous US studies identified a similar link to kidney cancer.

RW Duh and NR Asal. Mortality among laundry and drycleaning workers in Oklahoma, American Journal of Public Health, volume 64, number 11, pages 1278-1280, November 1984.


IARC finds ‘limited evidence’ of foundry lung cancer risk

A review of other 20 scientific studies has led the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) has concluded there is ‘limited evidence’ that foundry work causes lung cancer. All the studies showed a raised risk of lung cancer compared to the general population – most were significantly higher, at between 1.5 and 2.5 times the expected level.

Aluminium production, coke production and iron and steel founding, International Agency for Research on Cancer, Monograph on the evaluation of Carcinogenic Risk, volume 34, June 1984.

UK study finds ‘significant’ lung cancer rates in foundry workers

A study of over 10,000 steel foundry workers in England has found a significant increase in lung cancer and chronic bronchitis. The study found: “Mortality from lung cancer was significantly raised among workers employed in the foundry and fettling shop areas (standardized mortality ratios 142 and 173, respectively). Most occupational categories in these two areas had more lung cancer deaths than expected, but the standardized mortality ratios were the largest for the furnace bricklayers, fettlers, and heat treatment furnacemen. There was some evidence of risk increasing with length of employment.” The lung cancer risk appeared to have increased over the preceding 30 years, while the chronic bronchitis risk had fallen.

AC Fletcher and A Ades. Lung cancer mortality in a cohort of English steel foundry workers, Scandinavian Journal of Work Environment and Health, volume 10, number 1, pages 7-16, 1984.

Stomach cancer and cement workers

A study of the cause of death of 419 cement workers from north Kent, England, who died between 1948 and 1981 found an excess of stomach cancers. The analysis of death certificates found an almost two fold greater death rate from stomach cancer. In the group that packed and loaded cement there was a stomach cancer rate more than three times the expected level. The paper did not consider work practices, exposure levels or possible preventive measures.

ME Dowall. A mortality study of cement workers, British Journal of Industrial Medicine, volume 41, pages 179-182, 1984.


Compensation for asbestos lung cancers approved

The Industrial Injuries Advisory Council recommended that asbestos-related lung cancer should for the first time be recognised as a prescribed industrial disease where there is not also asbestosis. The recommendation was accepted by government.

Asbestos related diseases without asbestosis, Cmnd 8750, IARC, November 1982.

Work in the steel and coke industries linked to cancer

A 1982 study conducted by the Institute of Occupational Medicine in Edinburgh found a clear link between some jobs in the British steel and coke industries and lung cancer. The authors noted that the elevated rates of lung cancer in blast furnace men “should be investigated”. [A 1990 study by IOM, part financed by British Steel, found for these workers there was “about a twofold risk of lung cancer relative to steel workers in other occupations.” The study design meant many cancers and other chronic diseases would not have yet emerged at the conclusion of the study.] For coke oven workers, they concluded “we consider than occupationally related excess of lung cancer has been shown clearly. We consider that the excess number of lung cancer deaths among younger workers may reflect the real risks more accurately than the results for all men.”  In 1986, the UK Industrial Injuries Advisory Council considered whether lung cancer in coke oven workers should be added to the list of prescribed industrial diseases for which no-fault state compensation was payable. IIAC said no. After another quarter of a century of uncompensated deaths, only in 2011 did IIAC conclude “that lung cancer associated with (i) at least five years in total of work at the top of a coke oven or (ii) at least 15 years in total of coke oven work, should be added to the list of prescribed diseases. For workers who move between these coke oven jobs, and whose employment in top oven work amounts to less than five years in total, we recommend that each year of top oven work be counted as contributing three years towards the greater target of 15 years, as set out in further detail in our report.” That same year IIAC declined to add lung cancer in foundry workers to the prescribed disease list.

Jacobsen and others. Mortality of workers in the British steel and coke industries, Institute of Occupational Medicine, 1982.
Also see: Hurley and others. Mortality 1967-1977 of industrial workers and ex-workers from the British steel industry: further analyses, IOM, 1990.
Occupational Lung Cancer, IIAC, December 1986.
Lung cancer in coke oven workers, Cm 8163, IIAC, 13 September 2011.
Lung Cancer and Foundry Workers, Position Paper 29, IIAC, 29 March 2011.


A continually-updated, annotated bibliography of occupational cancer research produced by Hazards magazine, the Alliance for Cancer Prevention and the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC).