A cohort study of mortality among Ontario pipe trades workers.

Finkelstein MM, Verma DK.
Occup Environ Med. 2004 Sep;61(9):736-42.

AIMS: To study mortality in a cohort of members of the United Association of Journeymen and Apprentices of the Plumbing and Pipe Fitting Industry of the United States and Canada and to compare results with two previous proportional mortality studies.

METHODS: A cohort of 25,285 workers who entered the trade after 1949 was assembled from records of the international head office. Mortality was ascertained by linkage to the Canadian Mortality Registry at Statistics Canada. Standardised mortality ratios were computed using Ontario general population mortality rates as the reference.

RESULTS: There were significant increases in lung cancer mortality rates (SMR 1.27; 95% CI 1.13 to 1.42). Increased lung cancer risk was observed among plumbers, pipefitters, and sprinkler fitters. Increased risk was observed among workers joining the Union as late as the 1970s. A random effects meta-analysis of this study and the two PMR studies found significant increases in oesophageal (RR 1.24; 95% CI 1.00 to 1.53), lung (RR 1.31; 95% CI 1.19 to 1.44), and haematological/lymphatic (RR 1.21; 95% CI 1.08 to 1.35) malignancies.

CONCLUSIONS: The mortality pattern is consistent with the effects of occupational exposure to asbestos. Increased risk due to other respiratory carcinogens such as welding fume cannot be excluded. There are substantial amounts of asbestos in place in industrial and commercial environments. The education and training of workers to protect themselves against inhalation hazards will be necessary well into the future.

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