Health findings from a mortality and morbidity surveillance of refinery employees

Ann Epidemiol. 2001 Oct;11(7):466-76. doi: 10.1016/s1047-2797(01)00229-0.


Purpose: To present results from a prospective mortality (1973-1998) and morbidity (1990-1998) surveillance of a refinery population in California.

Methods: Mortality and illness-absence data were extracted from the Shell Oil Company's Health Surveillance System (HSS). Mortality data were compared to the United States, the state of California, and Contra Costa County, where the refinery is located. Morbidity data were compared to other company manufacturing employees. The standardized mortality/morbidity ratio (SMR/SMbR) was used as a measure of risk. Morbidity frequency and duration of absence were calculated by age, sex, and four health risk factors (smoking, high blood pressure, hypercholesterolemia, and obesity).

Results: With the United States as a comparison, the all causes combined SMR was 0.84 [95% confidence interval (CI) = 0.78-0.90], and the SMR for all cancer was 0.75 (95% CI = 0.64-0.88). Statistically significant deficits in mortality were found for lung cancer (SMR = 0.60) and leukemia (SMR = 0.26). Morbidity frequency and duration of absence among smokers were substantially higher than those of nonsmokers. Similar results were also noted for obese employees when compared to those of normal weight.

Conclusions: Regardless of the comparison population, significantly fewer deaths were seen for all causes combined, all cancer, lung cancer, and leukemia. The study also showed no increased mortality from cancer of the stomach, kidney, skin, prostate, and brain. The increased morbidity frequency and duration of absence were associated with the presence of known health risk factors. These study findings are useful in setting priorities for medical programs and directing efforts such as health promotion and disease prevention strategies.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • California / epidemiology
  • Cause of Death
  • Extraction and Processing Industry / statistics & numerical data*
  • Health Status*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Morbidity
  • Mortality
  • Occupational Diseases / epidemiology*
  • Population Surveillance
  • Risk Factors