Mortality in dry-cleaning workers: an update

Am J Ind Med. 2001 Feb;39(2):121-32. doi: 10.1002/1097-0274(200102)39:2<121::aid-ajim1000>;2-h.


Background: A cohort of 1,708 dry-cleaning workers identified from union records was exposed to perchloroethylene (PCE), a known animal carcinogen and probable human carcinogen, for at least 1 year before 1960. Many workers also had exposure to Stoddard solvent, a petroleum-based dry-cleaning solvent.

Methods: Vital status was updated through 1996 and life table analyses conducted.

Results: The cohort had excess cancer mortality (271 deaths, standardized mortality ratio [SMR] 1.25, 95% confidence interval [CI] 1.11-1.41). Elevated SMRs for tongue, bladder, esophagus, intestine, lung, and cervical cancer, pneumonia, and diseases of the stomach and duodenum were statistically significant.

Conclusion: The current study confirms findings of prior updates and other studies that dry-cleaning workers have excess cancer mortality at several sites. Although important lifestyle and socioeconomic risk factors exist for both cervical and esophageal cancer mortality, excesses of these sites in the PCE only subcohort and among workers with longer duration of PCE exposure suggest an association with PCE exposure.

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Carcinogens / adverse effects
  • Cause of Death
  • Cohort Studies
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Hydrocarbons / adverse effects
  • Laundering*
  • Life Tables
  • Male
  • Mortality*
  • Neoplasms / mortality
  • Occupational Exposure / adverse effects*
  • Solvents / adverse effects*
  • Tetrachloroethylene / adverse effects*
  • United States / epidemiology


  • Carcinogens
  • Hydrocarbons
  • Solvents
  • Stoddard solvent
  • Tetrachloroethylene