A study of the mortality of female asbestos workers

Br J Ind Med. 1972 Apr;29(2):134-41. doi: 10.1136/oem.29.2.134.


Newhouse, M. L., Berry, G., Wagner, J. C., and Turok, M. E. (1972).Brit. J. industr. Med.,29, 134-141. A study of the mortality of female asbestos workers. A cohort study of over 900 women employed at an asbestos factory making both textiles and insulation materials is described. It extends the information about asbestos-related disease at this factory which was previously available only for male workers. The cohort was defined as all the women who started employment at the factory between 1936 and 1942 and the main analysis was of mortality up to the end of 1968. This analysis was made in relation to job, length of exposure, and age at first exposure. Compared with national rates there was excess overall mortality among those who worked in jobs with low to moderate exposure partly accounted for by deaths from cancer. In the group with severe exposure, who had worked in the factory for less than two years, there was an excess of cancer of the lung and pleura. However, the most marked increased mortality was in those with severe exposure who had worked for more than two years in the factory; in this group there were excess deaths from cancer of the lung and pleura, from other cancers, and from respiratory diseases. There were no significant trends of excess mortality with age at first exposure. The smoking habits of some of the deceased women were obtained and the indications were that the proportion of smokers in the cohort was higher than the national rate. This could account for some of the excess mortality but the trend of this excess with exposure indicated the role of asbestos. Necropsy reports and/or histological material were obtained for 43% of those who had died. Three deaths registered as cancer of the pleura were identified as pleural mesothelial tumours; in all there were 11 mesotheliomas, six of pleural and five of peritoneal origin.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Age Factors
  • Asbestos*
  • Autopsy
  • Environmental Exposure
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Lung Neoplasms / mortality
  • Mesothelioma / mortality
  • Mortality*
  • Occupational Medicine*
  • Peritoneal Neoplasms / mortality
  • Pleural Neoplasms / mortality
  • Respiratory Tract Diseases / mortality
  • Smoking
  • Textile Industry*
  • Time Factors
  • United Kingdom


  • Asbestos