Objectives: The goal of this study was to determine the risk of lymphohematopoietic malignancies for workers exposed to styrene.
Methods: This was a historical cohort study. The observed numbers of newly diagnosed cases of lymphohematopoietic malignancies in the study population were compared with expected numbers based on the national rates. The study took place in the Danish reinforced plastic industry, in which high exposure levels of styrene occur frequently in an environment free of most other suspected carcinogens. Altogether 36,525 male employees of 386 companies producing reinforced plastics and 14,254 nonstyrene exposed employees of similar industries were studied.
Results: An insignificantly increased standardized incidence ratio (SIR) of 1.22 [95% confidence interval (95% CI) 0.88-1.65] was found for leukemia among all employees of the reinforced plastics industry. Workers employed in the 1960s (the period with the highest recorded styrene levels) or in companies with the highest exposure probability showed increased SIR values of 1.54 (95% CI 1.04-2.19) and 1.38 (95% CI 0.75-2.32), respectively. Both estimates increased when a 10-year latency period was considered.
Conclusions: An increased risk of leukemia was shown for workers in the early phase of the reinforced plastics industry in Denmark. If this association is not due to chance or confounding, the most likely cause is styrene exposure.