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Paper Chase

Asbestos-associated diseases in a cohort of cigarette-filter workers.

N. Engl. J. Med.. Nov 2, 1989;321(18):1220-3.
Talcott JA, Thurber WA, Kantor AF, Gaensler EA, Danahy JF, Antman KH, Li FP.

Division of Biostatistics and Epidemiology, Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, Boston, MA 02115.


To estimate the effects on health of occupational exposure to crocidolite, a highly toxic form of asbestos, we studied a cohort of 33 men who worked in 1953 in a Massachusetts factory that manufactured cigarette filters containing crocidolite fibers from 1951 to 1957. Twenty-eight of the men have died, as compared with 8.3 deaths expected. This increased mortality was attributable to asbestos-associated diseases. Fifteen deaths were caused by cancer, as compared with 1.8 expected (relative risk, 8.2; 95 percent confidence interval, 4.6 to 13.4), including eight from lung cancer, five from malignant mesothelioma, and two from other types of cancer. There were seven deaths from nonmalignant respiratory disease, as compared with 0.5 expected (relative risk, 14.7; 95 percent confidence interval, 5.9 to 30.3), of which five were due primarily to asbestosis. In contrast, the mortality rates from cardiovascular diseases and all other causes were not increased. Four of the five living workers have pulmonary asbestosis; three of them have recently diagnosed cancers, including two additional lung cancers. We conclude that the extremely high morbidity and mortality in these workers were caused by intense exposure to crocidolite asbestos fibers.