Original article

Scand J Work Environ Health 1986;12(5):461-468    pdf

doi:10.5271/sjweh.2111

Exposure to formaldehyde and cancer mortality in a cohort of workers producing resins.

by Bertazzi PA, Pesatori AC, Radice L, Zocchetti C, Vai T

The mortality of 1,332 male workers employed at least 30 days in 1959-1980 in a resins-manufacturing plant was examined. Ambient measurements taken in the plant between 1974 and 1979 documented a potential for exposure to levels of formaldehyde as high as greater than 3.0 mg/m3. Vital status was ascertained for 98.6% of the cohort members, and their mortality was compared with expected deaths drawn from the national and local population rates. A statistically significant increase in lung cancer was observed, based on 18 deaths, which was not fully accounted for by possible confounding factors linked to personal habits or sociocultural characteristics. This elevated risk, however, could not be attributed specifically to exposure to formaldehyde. Mortality from digestive cancer (14 deaths observed) and hematologic neoplasms (5 deaths observed) was not substantially higher than expected. The study was limited by information bias due to incomplete work histories, by the small number of deaths from some relevant causes, and by the possibly insufficient length of the observation period. Therefore these results do not provide sufficient grounds either to link formaldehyde exposure in the plant to the increased cancer risk noted or to exclude that formaldehyde might pose such a risk to humans under certain exposure circumstances.