Purpose: The mortality follow-up of a cohort of dry cleaners was extended to further evaluate cancers risks associated with organic solvents.
Methods: The underlying and contributing causes of death among 5,369 members of a dry cleaning union in St. Louis were determined through December 31, 1993. The mortality experience of the cohort was compared to that of the US population adjusted for age at entry, year of death, race and gender.
Results: The total mortality was about as expected (SMR = 1.0, N = 2351, 95% CI = 1.0-1.1). Excesses were observed for emphysema (SMR = 1.7, N = 21, 95% CI = 1.0-2.5), Hodgkin's disease (SMR = 2.0, N = 5, 95% CI = 0.6-4.6) and cancers of the esophagus (SMR = 2.2, N = 26, 95% CI = 1.5-3.3), larynx (SMR = 1.7, N = 6, 95% CI = 0.6-3.7), lung (SMR = 1.4, N = 125), 95% CI = 1.1-1.6), and cervix (SMR = 1.6, N = 27, 95% CI = 1.0-2.3). These excesses occurred among men and women and blacks and whites. Bladder cancer was elevated among white men and women and kidney cancer among black men and women, but not significantly so. None of these causes of death showed strong relationships with duration or estimated level of exposure to dry cleaning solvents, although relative risks for cancers of the larynx, lung and kidney were larger among subjects estimated to have higher levels of exposure and risks from bladder cancer and chronic nephritis were greater among persons who entered the union after 1960.
Conclusion: The excesses observed are unlikely to be due to chance because most occurred in earlier as well as the recent follow-up. The specific factors contributing the excesses, however, are not clear. Socioeconomic, lifestyle, and occupational exposures are all possibilities. Lack of information on socioeconomic and lifestyle factors hampers evaluation.