Lung cancer mortality at a UK tin smelter

Occup Med (Lond). 2007 Jun;57(4):238-45. doi: 10.1093/occmed/kql153. Epub 2007 Apr 16.


Background: An earlier study of mortality among male former employees at a tin smelter in Humberside, UK, had identified excess mortality from lung cancer, which appeared to be associated with occupational exposure.

Aims: The aim of the present study was to investigate the relationship between lung cancer mortality and quantitative measures of exposure.

Methods: Using available records of occupational hygiene measurements, we established exposure matrices for arsenic, cadmium, lead, antimony and polonium-210 ((210)Po), covering the main process areas of the smelter. We established work histories from personnel record cards for the previously defined cohort of 1462 male employees. Three different methods of extrapolation were used to assess exposures prior to 1972, when no measurement results were available. Lung cancer mortality was examined in relation to cumulative inhalation exposure by Poisson regression analysis.

Results: No significant associations could be found between lung cancer mortality and simple cumulative exposure to any of the substances studied. When cumulative exposures were weighted according to time since exposure and attained age, significant associations were found between lung cancer mortality and exposures to arsenic, lead and antimony.

Conclusions: The excess of lung cancer mortality in the cohort can most plausibly be explained if arsenic is the principal occupational carcinogen (for which the excess relative risk diminishes with time since exposure and attained age) and if there is a contribution to excess mortality from an enhanced prevalence of smoking within the cohort. The implications of the dose-response for arsenic exposure for risk estimation merit further consideration.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Air Pollutants, Occupational / toxicity
  • Antimony / toxicity
  • Arsenic / toxicity
  • Cadmium / toxicity
  • England / epidemiology
  • Humans
  • Lead / toxicity
  • Lung Neoplasms / mortality*
  • Male
  • Metallurgy*
  • Middle Aged
  • Occupational Diseases / mortality*
  • Occupational Exposure / adverse effects
  • Polonium / toxicity


  • Air Pollutants, Occupational
  • Cadmium
  • Lead
  • Antimony
  • Polonium
  • Arsenic