Author(s): CF Robinson, M Petersen, S Palu
Background: Studies of electrical workers in the utility and manufacturing industries have reported excess site-specific cancer. No previous studies of electrical workers in the construction industry have been conducted.
Methods: Our study evaluated the mortality patterns of 31,068 U.S. members of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers who primarily worked in the construction industry and died 1982–1987.
Results: Comparison to the U.S. population by using the NIOSH life table showed significantly elevated proportionate mortality for many causes. Excess mortality for leukemia (proportionate mortality ratio (PMR)=115) and brain tumors (PMR=136) is similar to reports of electrical workers with occupational exposure to electric and magnetic fields in the electric utility or manufacturing industry. Excess deaths due to melanoma skin cancer (PMR=123) are consistent with findings of other PCB-exposed workers. A significantly elevated PMR was observed for the diseases caused by asbestos: lung cancer (PMR=117), asbestosis (PMR=247), and malignant mesothelioma (PMR=356) and from fatal injuries, particularly electrocutions (PMR=1180). The findings of statistically significant excess deaths for prostate cancer (PMR=107), musculoskeletal disease (PMR=130), suicide (PMR=113), and disorders of the blood-forming organs (PMR=141) were unexpected.
Conclusions: Results suggest that more detailed investigations of occupational risk factors and evaluation of preventive practices are needed to prevent excess mortality in this hazardous occupation.Occupational Medicine & Health Affairs