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Cancer Res. 1988 Dec 15;48(24 Pt 1):7298-303.

Cancer morbidity and mortality in phosphate workers.

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  • 1Department of Epidemiology, Johns Hopkins School of Hygiene and Public Health, Baltimore, Maryland 21205.


Phosphate ore mining and processing operations are associated with dusty conditions and potential exposure to gamma radiation and radon daughter products. Although most current measurements are within Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) guidelines, no measurements exist for the era preceding modern standards of industrial hygiene and workplace ventilation. All workers employed by the participating phosphate company between 1950 and 1979 were ascertained, and 3451 males employed for approximately 6 months or more comprise the study population. Statistically significant elevations in lung cancer (standardized mortality ratio = 1.62) and emphysema were observed in white but not in black workers, in relation to U.S. rates. Among workers for whom 20 years had elapsed since first employment, there was a dose-response trend of increasing lung cancer risk with increasing duration of employment (standardized mortality ratio = 2.48 with 20 years of employment). There was no evidence of excess lung cancer risk among employees hired after 1960. Multivariate analyses and internal comparisons of risk by job type are consistent with a hypothesis of occupationally related lung cancer, but small numbers prevent firm conclusions.

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