Mortality of US pentachlorophenol production workers through 2005

Chemosphere. 2011 Apr;83(6):851-61. doi: 10.1016/j.chemosphere.2011.02.064.


A cohort of 2122 US pentachlorophenol (PCP) production workers from four plants in the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health Dioxin Registry was exposed to PCP and to polychlorinated dibenzo-p-dioxin and dibenzofuran contaminants of PCP production. A subcohort of 720 was also exposed to 2,3,7,8-tetrachlorodibenzodioxin, a contaminant of trichlorophenol (TCP) while using TCP or a TCP derivative. PCP and several production contaminants have been implicated as animal carcinogens. A priori hypotheses were that the cohort would have elevated standardized mortality ratios (SMRs) for aplastic anemia, soft-tissue sarcoma, and non-Hodgkin lymphoma, as suggested by human studies, and for leukemia and liver, adrenal, thyroid, and parathyroid cancer, as suggested by animal studies. From 1940 to 2005 1165 deaths occurred with an overall SMR of 1.01 [95% confidence limits (CI), 0.95-1.07]. Overall cancer mortality (326 deaths, SMR 1.17, CI 1.05-1.31) was in statistically significant excess. There were excess deaths for trachea, bronchus and lung cancers (126 deaths, SMR 1.36, CI 1.13-1.62), non-Hodgkin lymphoma (17 deaths, SMR 1.77, CI 1.03-2.84), chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (63 deaths, SMR 1.38, CI 1.06-1.77), and medical complications (5 deaths, SMR 3.52, CI 1.14-8.22). In race- and sex-specific analyses, white males had increased non-Hodgkin lymphoma mortality (17 deaths, SMR 1.98, CI 1.15-3.17) and males of other races had increased leukemia mortality (four deaths, SMR 4.57, CI 1.25-11.7). The excess of cancers of a priori interest, non-Hodgkin lymphoma and leukemia, provide some support for the carcinogenicity of PCP, however, further studies with more detailed exposure assessment are needed.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Chemical Industry / statistics & numerical data*
  • Environmental Pollutants / toxicity*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Neoplasms / chemically induced
  • Neoplasms / mortality*
  • Occupational Diseases / mortality*
  • Occupational Exposure / statistics & numerical data*
  • Pentachlorophenol / toxicity*
  • Polychlorinated Dibenzodioxins / toxicity
  • United States / epidemiology


  • Environmental Pollutants
  • Polychlorinated Dibenzodioxins
  • Pentachlorophenol