Short communication

Scand J Work Environ Health 1996;22(2):146-149    pdf | Issue date: Apr 1996

Diabetes mellitus among Swedish art glass workers -- an effect of arsenic exposure?

by Rahman M, Wingren G, Axelson O

Objectives The purpose of this study was to search for evidence of an association between occupational arsenic exposure and diabetes mellitus, as implied by the relation of this disease to arsenic in drinking water in a recent study from Taiwan.

Methods A case-referent analysis on death records of 5498 individuals in the art glass producing part of southeastern Sweden was performed. Out of all the enrolled subjects, 888 were glass workers. According to occupational title, glassblowers, foundry workers, and unspecified workers were regarded as potentially exposed to arsenic. Persons with a diagnosis of diabetes mellitus either as an underlying or contributing cause of death were considered cases. Referents were decedents without any indication of cancer, cardiovascular disease, or diabetes.

Results A slightly elevated risk [Mantel-Haenszel odds ratio (MH-OR) 1.2, 95% confidence interval (95% CI) 0.82--1.8] was found for diabetes mellitus among the glassworks employees, especially in combination with cardiovascular disease (MH-OR 1.4, 95% CI 0.81--2.3). For the glassblowers, other foundry workers and unspecified glassworkers probably exposed to arsenic, the M-H odds ratio was 1.4 (95% CI 0.92--2.2). Unspecified glass workers, who probably included persons with high exposure, carried the higher risk (MH-OR 1.8, 95%CI 1.1--2.8).

Conclusions The observations from this study provide limited support for the possibility that occupational arsenic exposure could play a role in the development of diabetes mellitus. Many other metallic compounds are also used in art glass production, however, and there is a possibility of confounding.