The 1891-1920 birth cohort of Quebec chrysotile miners and millers: development from 1904 and mortality to 1992

Ann Occup Hyg. 1997 Jan;41(1):13-36. doi: 10.1016/S0003-4878(96)00044-0.


This paper draws together the mortality experience for a cohort of some 11000 male Quebec Chrysotile miners and millers, reported at intervals since 1971 and now again updated. Of the 10918 men in the complete cohort, 1138 were lost to view, almost all never traced after employment of only a month or two before 1935; the other 9780 men were traced into 1992. Of these, 8009 (82%) are known to have died: 657 from lung cancer, 38 from mesotheliona, 1205 from other malignant disease, 108 from pneumoconiosis and 561 from other non-malignant respiratory diseases (excluding tuberculosis). After early fluctuations. SMRs (all causes) against Quebec rates have been reasonably steady since about 1945. For men first employed in Asbestos, mine or factory, they were very much what might have been expected for a blue collar population without any hazardous exposure. SMRs in the Thetford Mines area were almost 8% higher, but in line with anecdotal evidence concerning socio-economic status. At exposures below 300 (million particles per cubic foot) x years, (mpcf.y), equivalent to roughly 1000 (fibres/ml) x years-or, say, 10 years in the 1940s at 80 (fibres/ml)-findings were as follows. There were no discernible associations of degree of exposure and SMRs, whether for all causes of death or for all the specific cancer sites examined. The average SMRs were 1.07 (all causes), and 1.16, 0.93, 1.03 and 1.21, respectively, for gastric, other abdominal, laryngeal and lung cancer. Men whose exposures were less then 300 mpcf.y suffered almost one-half of the 146 deaths from pneumoconiosis or mesothelioma; the elimination of these two causes would have reduced these men's SMR (all causes) from 1.07 to approximately 1.06. Thus it is concluded from the viewpoint of mortality that exposure in this industry to less than 300 mpcf.y has been essentially innocuous, although there was a small risk or pneumoconiosis or mesothelioma. Higher exposures have, however, led to excesses, increasing with degree of exposure, of mortality from all causes, and from lung cancer and stomach cancer, but such exposures, of at least 300 mpcf.y, are several orders of magnitude more severe than any that have been seen for many years. The effects of cigarette smoking were much more deleterious than those of dust exposure, not only for lung cancer (the SMR for smokers of 20+ cigarettes a day being 4.6 times higher than that for non-smokers), but also for stomach cancer (2.0 times higher), laryngeal cancer (2.9 times higher), and-most importantly-for all causes (1.6 times higher).

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Air Pollutants, Occupational / adverse effects*
  • Asbestos, Serpentine / adverse effects*
  • Asbestosis / etiology
  • Asbestosis / mortality*
  • Cause of Death
  • Cohort Studies
  • Environmental Monitoring
  • Epidemiological Monitoring
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Mesothelioma / etiology
  • Mesothelioma / mortality
  • Mining / statistics & numerical data*
  • Neoplasms / etiology
  • Neoplasms / mortality*
  • Quebec / epidemiology


  • Air Pollutants, Occupational
  • Asbestos, Serpentine