Mortality patterns among electrical workers employed in the U.S. construction industry, 1982-1987

Am J Ind Med. 1999 Dec;36(6):630-7. doi: 10.1002/(sici)1097-0274(199912)36:6<630::aid-ajim5>;2-6.


Background: Studies of electrical workers in the utility and manufacturing industries have reported excess site-specific cancer. No previous studies of electrical workers in the construction industry have been conducted.

Methods: Our study evaluated the mortality patterns of 31,068 U.S. members of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers who primarily worked in the construction industry and died 1982-1987.

Results: Comparison to the U.S. population by using the NIOSH life table showed significantly elevated proportionate mortality for many causes. Excess mortality for leukemia (proportionate mortality ratio (PMR)=115) and brain tumors (PMR=136) is similar to reports of electrical workers with occupational exposure to electric and magnetic fields in the electric utility or manufacturing industry. Excess deaths due to melanoma skin cancer (PMR=123) are consistent with findings of other PCB-exposed workers. A significantly elevated PMR was observed for the diseases caused by asbestos: lung cancer (PMR=117), asbestosis (PMR=247), and malignant mesothelioma (PMR=356) and from fatal injuries, particularly electrocutions (PMR=1180). The findings of statistically significant excess deaths for prostate cancer (PMR=107), musculoskeletal disease (PMR=130), suicide (PMR=113), and disorders of the blood-forming organs (PMR=141) were unexpected.

Conclusions: Results suggest that more detailed investigations of occupational risk factors and evaluation of preventive practices are needed to prevent excess mortality in this hazardous occupation. Am. J. Ind. Med. 36:630-637, 1999. Published 1999 Wiley-Liss, Inc.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Cause of Death
  • Construction Materials
  • Electricity
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Labor Unions
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Mortality*
  • Neoplasms / mortality
  • Occupational Health / statistics & numerical data*
  • United States / epidemiology