Excess lung cancer risk in a synthetic chemicals plant

Environ Health Perspect. 1981 Oct;41:159-65. doi: 10.1289/ehp.8141159.


A standardized mortality ratio of 1.49 for respiratory system cancer (42 observed deaths versus 28.2 expected, p less than 0.01) was observed among a cohort of 4806 males employed at a synthetic chemicals plant since its startup in 1942. Upon review of pathologic material, the excess was found to be limited to adenocarcinoma and large cell undifferentiated lung cancer. Many of the workers had been exposed to vinyl chloride, as well as to chlorinated solvents, poly(vinyl chloride) (PVC) dust, acrylates and acrylonitrile. To evaluate the association between lung cancer and occupational chemical exposures, detailed work histories for each cohort member were combined with exposure ratings for each of 19 chemicals for each job for each calendar year since 1942. A serially additive expected dose model was then constructed which compared the doses of the chemicals observed for the lung cancer cases to the doses expected based on subcohorts without lung cancer individually matched to the cases. PVC dust appeared to be the most likely etiologic agent (p = 0.037). Time trends of PVC dust exposure indicated a potential latent period of 5-16 years before death.

MeSH terms

  • Adenocarcinoma / chemically induced
  • Carcinoma / chemically induced
  • Carcinoma, Small Cell / chemically induced
  • Chemical Industry*
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Humans
  • Lung Neoplasms / chemically induced*
  • Male
  • Occupational Diseases / chemically induced*
  • Polyvinyl Chloride / adverse effects*
  • Polyvinyls / adverse effects*
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Risk
  • Time Factors
  • United States
  • Vinyl Chloride / adverse effects*
  • Vinyl Compounds / adverse effects*


  • Polyvinyls
  • Vinyl Compounds
  • Polyvinyl Chloride
  • Vinyl Chloride