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Environ Health Perspect. 1990 Jun;86:143-7.

Critical assessment of epidemiologic studies on the human carcinogenicity of 1,3-butadiene.

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  • 1Division of Environmental and Occupational Medicine, Mt. Sinai School of Medicine, New York, NY 10029-6574.


1,3-Butadiene, a major ingredient of synthetic rubber, has been shown to be carcinogenic in two animal species. To assess the possible human carcinogenicity of 1,3-butadiene, a critical review was undertaken of the epidemiologic literature. An early retrospective study of 8017 males employed in tire manufacturing found excess mortality for lymphatic and hematopoietic neoplasms in production workers (standardized mortality ratio, SMR = 560); these workers were exposed to 1,3-butadiene as well as to styrene and possibly to benzene. A recently updated epidemiologic study of 2568 workers at a butadiene manufacturing plant in Texas reported low mortality overall (SMR = 84) but found excess deaths for lymphosarcoma and reticulum cell sarcoma (SMR = 229). A retrospective study of workers employed at two synthetic rubber plants in Texas found excess mortality for lymphatic and hematopoietic malignancies in the older of these facilities; the excesses for lymphosarcoma (SMR = 224) and leukemia (SMR = 278) were most significant in wartime workers. A large, recently updated retrospective study of 12,113 workers employed in eight synthetic rubber manufacturing plants in the United States and Canada found excess mortality for lymphatic and hematopoietic cancer in production workers; the SMR for other lymphatic cancers in white production workers was 230, and the SMR for all lymphatic malignancies in black production workers was 507. These updated epidemiologic results strongly suggest an etiologic association between occupational exposure to 1,3-butadiene and human cancer. It is reasonable, therefore, to conclude that there now exists at least limited evidence for the human carcinogenicity of 1,3-butadiene.

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