Deaths and tumours among rotogravure printers exposed to toluene

Br J Ind Med. 1990 Jun;47(6):372-9. doi: 10.1136/oem.47.6.372.


A cohort of 1020 rotogravure printers exposed to toluene and employed for a minimum period of three months in eight plants during 1925-85 was studied. Air levels of toluene were available since 1943 in one plant and since 1969 in most. Based on these measurements and on present concentrations of toluene in blood and subcutaneous fat, the yearly average air levels in each plant were estimated. They reached a maximum of about 450 ppm in the 1940s and 1950s but were only about 30 ppm by the mid-1980s. Exposure to benzene had occurred up to the beginning of the 1960s. Compared with regional rates, total mortality did not increase during the observation period 1952-86 (129 observed deaths v 125 expected; SMR = 1.03). There was no increase in mortality from non-malignant diseases of the lungs, nervous system, or gastrointestinal and urinary tracts. There was no overall excess of tumours 1958-85 (68 v 54, SMR = 1.26; 95% confidence interval, CI = 0.95-1.7). Among the specific cancers, only those of the respiratory tract were significantly increased (16 v 9; SMR = 1.76, CI = 1.03-2.9). Statistical significance was not attained, however, when only subjects with an exposure period of at least five years and a latency period of at least 10 years were considered. Further, there were no dose response relations with cumulated toluene dose (ppm years). There were no significant increases of tumours at other sites, including leukaemias/lymphomas/myelomas.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Benzene / adverse effects
  • Cohort Studies
  • Coloring Agents / adverse effects
  • Gastrointestinal Neoplasms / mortality
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Morbidity
  • Neoplasms / chemically induced*
  • Neoplasms / mortality
  • Occupational Diseases / chemically induced*
  • Occupational Diseases / mortality
  • Printing*
  • Respiratory Tract Neoplasms / mortality
  • Solvents / adverse effects
  • Sweden / epidemiology
  • Toluene / adverse effects*


  • Coloring Agents
  • Solvents
  • Toluene
  • Benzene