Mortality among California highway workers

Am J Ind Med. 1988;13(3):363-79. doi: 10.1002/ajim.4700130306.

Abstract

Standardized proportional mortality ratios (PMR) were computed for a population of highway workers. Hazards of highway maintenance work include exposure to solvents, herbicides, asphalt and welding fumes, diesel and auto exhaust, asbestos, abrasive dusts, hazardous material spills, and moving motor vehicles. Underlying cause of death was obtained for 1,570 workers who separated from the California Department of Transportation between 1970 and 1983, and who died in California between 1970 and 1983 (inclusive). Among 1,260 white males, the major findings were statistically significant excesses of cancers of digestive organs (PMR = 128), skin (PMR = 218), lymphopoietic cancer (PMR = 157), benign neoplasms (PMR = 343), motor vehicle accidents (PMR = 141), and suicide (PMR = 154). Black males (N = 66) experienced nonsignificant excesses of cancer of the digestive organs (PMR = 191) and arteriosclerotic heart disease (PMR = 143). Among 168 white females, deaths from lung cancer (PMR = 189) and suicide (PMR = 215) were elevated. White male retirees, a subgroup with 5 or more years of service, experienced excess mortality due to cancers of the colon (PMR = 245), skin (PMR = 738), brain (PMR = 556), and lymphosarcomas and reticulosarcomas (PMR = 514). Deaths from external causes (PMR = 135) and cirrhosis of the liver (PMR = 229) were elevated among white males with a last job in landscape maintenance. White males whose last job was highway maintenance experienced a deficit in mortality from circulatory diseases (PMR = 83) and excess mortality from emphysema (PMR = 250) and motor vehicle accidents (PMR = 196). Further epidemiologic and industrial hygiene studies are needed to confirm the apparent excess mortality and to quantify occupational and nonoccupational exposures. However, reduction of recognized hazards among highway maintenance workers is a prudent precautionary measure.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Accidents, Occupational
  • California
  • Cause of Death
  • Epidemiologic Methods
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Neoplasms / mortality
  • Occupational Diseases / mortality*
  • Transportation*