Introduction: The carcinogenic potency of chrysotile asbestos remains a contentious topic, and more data are needed to address this issue. We examine cause-specific mortality, especially lung cancer, and its association with chrysotile-asbestos exposure in a Chinese cohort.
Methods: A cohort of 577 workers from a chrysotile-textile plant was followed prospectively from 1972 to 2008. Occupational history, exposure information, and smoking data were obtained from company records and personal interviews; vital status and causes of death were ascertained from death registries and hospitals. Workers were classified into three exposure levels on the basis of exposure assessments of different workshops. Standardized Mortality Ratios (SMRs) were calculated in terms of exposure levels and other indices.
Results: Among 259 identified deaths, 53 died from lung cancer, with an SMR of 4.08 (95% confidence interval 3.12, 5.33), and 96 from all cancers with an SMR of 2.09 (1.71, 2.55). In addition, two deaths from mesothelioma were observed. Increased mortality from respiratory diseases was also observed (SMR 3.38, 95% confidence interval 2.72, 4.21). Asbestos-exposure levels, exposure years, and birth cohorts showed a clear trend of risk for lung cancer and respiratory diseases.
Conclusion: The current analysis indicated that exposure to chrysotile asbestos was closely associated with excess mortality from lung cancer and respiratory diseases.