Mortality among bearing plant workers exposed to metalworking fluids and abrasives

J Occup Med. 1988 Sep;30(9):706-14.


Epidemiologic studies have reported associations between gastrointestinal cancer mortality and exposure to cutting fluids and abrasives in metal machining and precision grinding operations. Two previous studies found excess stomach cancer among workers exposed to water-based cutting fluids in bearing plants. This study reports similar findings in a third and larger population. Cause of death and work histories were determined for 1,766 bearing plant workers who died between Jan 1, 1950 and June 30, 1982. Mortality odds ratios (SMOR) and proportional mortality ratios (PMR) revealed significant excesses of gastrointestinal malignancies. The proportional mortality excess for stomach cancer among white men was greatest among those with more than 10 years' exposure in the major grinding group (PMR = 13/3.8 = 3.39; P less than .001). The SMOR by logistic regression for stomach cancer among white men was 2.3 (P = .02) for 25 years' grinding experience. For cancer of the pancreas among white men, there were significant associations with both machining and grinding jobs in straight oil (SMOR = 9.9 and 3.2, respectively, for 25 years duration). These findings could not be explained by confounding due to the ethnic background of the decedents. This study confirms previous evidence that grinding operations using water-based cutting fluids increase the risk for stomach cancer and provides moderate evidence that exposures to straight oil-cutting fluids increase the risk for cancer of the pancreas. There were indications, meriting further investigation, that non-malignant liver disease is associated with cutting fluid exposures and that lung cancer is associated with oil smoke from operations such as forging or heat treating.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Aluminum / adverse effects*
  • Aluminum Oxide / adverse effects*
  • Carbon / adverse effects*
  • Carbon Compounds, Inorganic*
  • Chemical and Drug Induced Liver Injury
  • Connecticut
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Industrial Oils / adverse effects*
  • Liver Diseases / mortality
  • Lung Neoplasms / chemically induced
  • Lung Neoplasms / mortality
  • Male
  • Metallurgy*
  • Occupational Diseases / chemically induced
  • Occupational Diseases / mortality*
  • Pancreatic Neoplasms / chemically induced
  • Pancreatic Neoplasms / mortality
  • Silicon / adverse effects*
  • Silicon Compounds*
  • Smoke / adverse effects
  • Stomach Neoplasms / chemically induced
  • Stomach Neoplasms / mortality


  • Carbon Compounds, Inorganic
  • Silicon Compounds
  • Smoke
  • Carbon
  • Aluminum
  • Aluminum Oxide
  • silicon carbide
  • Silicon