Original article

Scand J Work Environ Health 1996;22(1):27-34    pdf

doi:10.5271/sjweh.105 | Issue date: Feb 1996

Mortality in a cohort of Russian fertilizer workers

by Bulbulyan MA, Jourenkova NJ, Boffetta P, Astashevsky SV, Mukeria AF, Zaridze DG

Objectives The study evaluated the mortality of workers exposed to precursors of N-nitroso compounds in a Russian fertilizer plant.

Methods Workers employed at least two years between 1945 and 1985 in production departments or other services were included in the cohort, which comprised 2039 men and 2957 women followed from 1965 to 1990. The standardized mortality ratios (SMR) were calculated using cause-specific death rates for the Moscow region as reference. An internal comparison was carried out using Poisson regression modelling. Exposure to arsenic, nitrogen oxides, and sulfur dioxide was estimated from an industrial hygiene survey.

Results The production and other workers had no excess of mortality from all causes or all neoplasms. However the male production workers had excess mortality from all cancers combined (SMR 143) and lung cancer (SMR 186) after a latency period of 20 years. Men with the highest exposure to nitrogen oxides had a twofold increase in mortality from stomach cancer, with a marginally significant increasing trend between stomach cancer and cumulative exposure to nitrogen oxides for both genders. Excess mortality from all cancers and stomach cancer was found for the workers with the highest average exposure to arsenic, and excess lung cancer mortality could be attributed to exposure to arsenic.

Conclusion The investigation showed a weak association between employment in a fertilizer production plant and increased mortality from cancer. The results somewhat support the hypothesis that occupational exposure to precursors of N-nitroso compounds increases the risk of stomach cancer mortality, as does exposure to arsenic.