Mortality among rubber workers: Relationship to specific jobs

J Occup Med. 1976 Mar;18(3):178-85. doi: 10.1097/00043764-197603000-00012.


This study has examined the ten-year mortality in a single-plant population of 6678 male rubber workers, in terms of the association of specific causes of death with a history of having worked in certain categories of jobs within the rubber industry. The work-histories of individual study subjects were analyzed, in detail, for all workers dying of selected causes of death. Comparison was made with the work-histories of a 22% age-stratified random sample of the total population. Age-adjusted exposure ratios (Tables 3 and 4) were calculated for all nine case groups in all 16 work areas, using differing exposure criteria (i.e. duration and calendar period). These ratios provide an approximation of the increased mortality risk associated with particular work areas. The risk ratios (with their associated confidence intervals), in Table 5, provide more rigorous estimates of these instances of increased mortality risk. For each cause of death studied, there were statistically significant associations with several work areas. For the cancers, the strongest associations tended to be with work areas at the front end of the production line (especially compounding and mixing), where the likelihood of contact with dusts, chemical ingredients, and vapors containing the early reaction byproducts, is high. The reclaim operation and the synthetic plant were each associated with several cancers (respiratory and bladder, and stomach and lymphato-hematopoietic cancers, respectively). The lymphatic leukemias were associated with solvent-exposure areas, especially inspection, finishing, and repair. Ischemic heart disease deaths, at ages 40-54, were strongly associated with having worked in extrusion and tread cementing, and in the synthetic plant. Deaths from diabetes mellitus were strongly associated with the janitoring-trucking category, and with jobs in the inspection, finishing and repair area. These observed associations, calculated after controlling for the variables sex and age, were apparently not due to confounding by smoking and race differences between work areas. The role of selective transfer of sick individuals (into, say janitoring or trucking) warrants further investigation. However, this mechanism is unlikely to be involved in the great majority of the observed associations. Another possible source of spurious inferences of increased risk would be correlation, within work-histories, between two job categories, one of which actually involved increased risk, while the other did not. Such associations could occur if certain job sequency trends existed within this working population. (Preliminary analyses indicate that this likelihood is not great; however, further analysis is planned.) Detailed study of specific environmental agents, historically and cross-sectionally, is currently underway, in an attempt to identify the work-environment agents responsible for the associations reported here.

MeSH terms

  • Age Factors
  • Environmental Exposure
  • Humans
  • Neoplasms / mortality*
  • Occupations
  • Ohio
  • Statistics as Topic
  • United States