Author(s): Frank B Stern, Avima M Ruder, Guang Chen
Background: The United Union of Roofers, Waterproofers, and Allied Workers (UURWAW) is one of the 15 building and construction trades departments in the AFL-CIO. The U.S. roofing industry, including both roofing and waterproofing applications, both unionized and nonunionized, comprises about 25,000 firms, employing approximately 300,000 people, about 200,000 of whom are involved in the application of roofs. The specific toxins to which roofers may be exposed at the job site include, among others, bitumens (asphalt and/or coal tar pitch) as well as asbestos and fiberglass from roof removal operations. Excess deaths from occupational injuries are also of concern.
Methods: This study evaluated causes of mortality among 11,144 members of the UURWAW. Age-adjusted proportionate mortality ratios (PMRs) were computed with 95% confidence intervals (CI) using U.S. age-, gender-, and race-specific proportional mortality rates for the years of the study, 1950–1996.
Results: Statistically significant increased PMRs were found for all injuries (PMR = 142, CI = 134–150), especially falls (PMR = 464, CI = 419–513) and other injuries (PMR = 121, CI = 107–137), cancers of the lung (PMR = 139, CI = 131–148), bladder (PMR = 138, CI = 111–170), esophagus (PMR = 134, CI = 107–166), larynx (PMR = 145, CI = 106–193), and cancers of other and unspecified sites (PMR = 130, CI = 112–149), pneumoconioses and other nonmalignant respiratory diseases (PMR = 115, CI = 103–128), and homicides (PMR = 153, CI = 135–172). The occupational exposures which may have contributed to the excess risks of malignant and nonmalignant respiratory diseases include, among others, asphalt fumes, coal tar pitch volatiles and asbestos; however, cigarette smoking must also be considered a contributing factor.
Conclusions: The present study underscores the need to control airborne exposures to hazardous substances and especially to examine fall prevention efforts within the roofing industry.Occupational Medicine & Health Affairs