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1.  The Diesel Exhaust in Miners Study: IV. Estimating Historical Exposures to Diesel Exhaust in Underground Non-metal Mining Facilities 
Annals of Occupational Hygiene  2010;54(7):774-788.
We developed quantitative estimates of historical exposures to respirable elemental carbon (REC) for an epidemiologic study of mortality, including lung cancer, among diesel-exposed miners at eight non-metal mining facilities [the Diesel Exhaust in Miners Study (DEMS)]. Because there were no historical measurements of diesel exhaust (DE), historical REC (a component of DE) levels were estimated based on REC data from monitoring surveys conducted in 1998–2001 as part of the DEMS investigation. These values were adjusted for underground workers by carbon monoxide (CO) concentration trends in the mines derived from models of historical CO (another DE component) measurements and DE determinants such as engine horsepower (HP; 1 HP = 0.746 kW) and mine ventilation. CO was chosen to estimate historical changes because it was the most frequently measured DE component in our study facilities and it was found to correlate with REC exposure. Databases were constructed by facility and year with air sampling data and with information on the total rate of airflow exhausted from the underground operations in cubic feet per minute (CFM) (1 CFM = 0.0283 m3 min−1), HP of the diesel equipment in use (ADJ HP), and other possible determinants. The ADJ HP purchased after 1990 (ADJ HP1990+) was also included to account for lower emissions from newer, cleaner engines. Facility-specific CO levels, relative to those in the DEMS survey year for each year back to the start of dieselization (1947–1967 depending on facility), were predicted based on models of observed CO concentrations and log-transformed (Ln) ADJ HP/CFM and Ln(ADJ HP1990+). The resulting temporal trends in relative CO levels were then multiplied by facility/department/job-specific REC estimates derived from the DEMS surveys personal measurements to obtain historical facility/department/job/year-specific REC exposure estimates. The facility-specific temporal trends of CO levels (and thus the REC estimates) generated from these models indicated that CO concentrations had been generally greater in the past than during the 1998–2001 DEMS surveys, with the highest levels ranging from 100 to 685% greater (median: 300%). These levels generally occurred between 1970 and the early 1980s. A comparison of the CO facility-specific model predictions with CO air concentration measurements from a 1976–1977 survey external to the modeling showed that our model predictions were slightly lower than those observed (median relative difference of 29%; range across facilities: 49 to –25%). In summary, we successfully modeled past CO concentration levels using selected determinants of DE exposure to derive retrospective estimates of REC exposure. The results suggested large variations in REC exposure levels both between and within the underground operations of the facilities and over time. These REC exposure estimates were in a plausible range and were used in the investigation of exposure–response relationships in epidemiologic analyses.
PMCID: PMC2953557  PMID: 20876235
elemental carbon; miners; exposure assessment; carbon monoxide; diesel exhaust
2.  The Diesel Exhaust in Miners Study: II. Exposure Monitoring Surveys and Development of Exposure Groups 
Annals of Occupational Hygiene  2010;54(7):747-761.
Air monitoring surveys were conducted between 1998 and 2001 at seven non-metal mining facilities to assess exposure to respirable elemental carbon (REC), a component of diesel exhaust (DE), for an epidemiologic study of miners exposed to DE. Personal exposure measurements were taken on workers in a cross-section of jobs located underground and on the surface. Air samples taken to measure REC were also analyzed for respirable organic carbon (ROC). Concurrent measurements to assess exposure to nitric oxide (NO) and nitrogen dioxide (NO2), two gaseous components of DE, were also taken. The REC measurements were used to develop quantitative estimates of average exposure levels by facility, department, and job title for the epidemiologic analysis. Each underground job was assigned to one of three sets of exposure groups from specific to general: (i) standardized job titles, (ii) groups of standardized job titles combined based on the percentage of time in the major underground areas, and (iii) larger groups based on similar area carbon monoxide (CO) air concentrations. Surface jobs were categorized based on their use of diesel equipment and proximity to DE. A total of 779 full-shift personal measurements were taken underground. The average REC exposure levels for underground jobs with five or more measurements ranged from 31 to 58 μg m−3 at the facility with the lowest average exposure levels and from 313 to 488 μg m−3 at the facility with the highest average exposure levels. The average REC exposure levels for surface workers ranged from 2 to 6 μg m−3 across the seven facilities. There was much less contrast in the ROC compared with REC exposure levels measured between surface and underground workers within each facility, as well as across the facilities. The average ROC levels underground ranged from 64 to 195 μg m−3, while on the surface, the average ROC levels ranged from 38 to 71 μg m−3 by facility, an ∼2- to 3-fold difference. The average NO and NO2 levels underground ranged from 0.20 to 1.49 parts per million (ppm) and from 0.10 to 0.60 ppm, respectively, and were ∼10 times higher than levels on the surface, which ranged from 0.02 to 0.11 ppm and from 0.01 to 0.06 ppm, respectively. The ROC, NO, and NO2 concentrations underground were correlated with the REC levels (r = 0.62, 0.71, and 0.62, respectively). A total of 80% of the underground jobs were assigned an exposure estimate based on measurements taken for the specific job title or for other jobs with a similar percentage of time spent in the major underground work areas. The average REC exposure levels by facility were from 15 to 64 times higher underground than on the surface. The large contrast in exposure levels measured underground versus on the surface, along with the differences between the mining facilities and between underground jobs within the facilities resulted in a wide distribution in the exposure estimates for evaluation of exposure–response relationships in the epidemiologic analyses.
PMCID: PMC2953556  PMID: 20876232
diesel exhaust; miners; elemental carbon; exposure assessment; job groups
3.  The Diesel Exhaust in Miners Study: V. Evaluation of the Exposure Assessment Methods 
Annals of Occupational Hygiene  2012;56(4):389-400.
Exposure to respirable elemental carbon (REC), a component of diesel exhaust (DE), was assessed for an epidemiologic study investigating the association between DE and mortality, particularly from lung cancer, among miners at eight mining facilities from the date of dieselization (1947–1967) through 1997. To provide insight into the quality of the estimates for use in the epidemiologic analyses, several approaches were taken to evaluate the exposure assessment process and the quality of the estimates. An analysis of variance was conducted to evaluate the variability of 1998–2001 REC measurements within and between exposure groups of underground jobs. Estimates for the surface exposure groups were evaluated to determine if the arithmetic means (AMs) of the REC measurements increased with increased proximity to, or use of, diesel-powered equipment, which was the basis on which the surface groups were formed. Estimates of carbon monoxide (CO) (another component of DE) air concentrations in 1976–1977, derived from models developed to predict estimated historical exposures, were compared to 1976–1977 CO measurement data that had not been used in the model development. Alternative sets of estimates were developed to investigate the robustness of various model assumptions. These estimates were based on prediction models using: (i) REC medians rather AMs, (ii) a different CO:REC proportionality than a 1:1 relation, and (iii) 5-year averages of historical CO measurements rather than modeled historical CO measurements and DE-related determinants. The analysis of variance found that in three of the facilities, most of the between-group variability in the underground measurements was explained by the use of job titles. There was relatively little between-group variability in the other facilities. The estimated REC AMs for the surface exposure groups rose overall from 1 to 5 μg m−3 as proximity to, and use of, diesel equipment increased. The alternative estimates overall were highly correlated (∼0.9) with the primary set of estimates. The median of the relative differences between the 1976–1977 CO measurement means and the 1976–1977 estimates for six facilities was 29%. Comparison of estimated CO air concentrations from the facility-specific prediction models with historical CO measurement data found an overall agreement similar to that observed in other epidemiologic studies. Other evaluations of components of the exposure assessment process found moderate to excellent agreement. Thus, the overall evidence suggests that the estimates were likely accurate representations of historical personal exposure levels to DE and are useful for epidemiologic analyses.
PMCID: PMC3324483
diesel exhaust; elemental carbon; exposure assessment; mining
4.  Evaluation of an exposure assessment used in epidemiological studies of diesel exhaust and lung cancer in underground mines 
Critical Reviews in Toxicology  2012;42(7):599-612.
NIOSH/NCI (National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health and National Cancer Institute) developed exposure estimates for respirable elemental carbon (REC) as a surrogate for exposure to diesel exhaust (DE) for different jobs in eight underground mines by year beginning in the 1940s—1960s when diesel equipment was first introduced into these mines. These estimates played a key role in subsequent epidemiological analyses of the potential relationship between exposure to DE and lung cancer conducted in these mines. We report here on a reanalysis of some of the data from this exposure assessment. Because samples of REC were limited primarily to 1998–2001, NIOSH/NCI used carbon monoxide (CO) as a surrogate for REC. In addition, because CO samples were limited, particularly in the earlier years, they used the ratio of diesel horsepower (HP) to the mine air exhaust rate as a surrogate for CO. There are considerable uncertainties connected with each of these surrogate-based steps. The estimates of HP appear to involve considerable uncertainty, although we had no data upon which to evaluate the magnitude of this uncertainty. A sizable percentage (45%) of the CO samples used in the HP to CO model was below the detection limit which required NIOSH/NCI to assign CO values to these samples. In their preferred REC estimates, NIOSH/NCI assumed a linear relation between C0 and REC, although they provided no credible support for that assumption. Their assumption of a stable relationship between HP and CO also is questionable, and our reanalysis found a statistically significant relationship in only one-half of the mines. We re-estimated yearly REC exposures mainly using NIOSH/NCI methods but with some important differences: (i) rather than simply assuming a linear relationship, we used data from the mines to estimate the CO—REC relationship; (ii) we used a different method for assigning values to nondetect CO measurements; and (iii) we took account of statistical uncertainty to estimate bounds for REC exposures. This exercise yielded significantly different exposure estimates than estimated by NIOSH/NCI. However, this analysis did not incorporate the full range of uncertainty in REC exposures because of additional uncertainties in the assumptions underlying the modeling and in the underlying data (e.g. HP and mine exhaust rates). Estimating historical exposures in a cohort is generally a very difficult undertaking. However, this should not prevent one from recognizing the uncertainty in the resulting estimates in any use made of them.
PMCID: PMC3423303  PMID: 22594934
Exposure assessment; underground mines; diesel exhaust; carbon monoxide; respirable elemental carbon
5.  The Diesel Exhaust in Miners Study: III. Interrelations between Respirable Elemental Carbon and Gaseous and Particulate Components of Diesel Exhaust derived from Area Sampling in Underground Non-metal Mining Facilities 
Annals of Occupational Hygiene  2010;54(7):762-773.
Diesel exhaust (DE) has been implicated as a potential lung carcinogen. However, the exact components of DE that might be involved have not been clearly identified. In the past, nitrogen oxides (NOx) and carbon oxides (COx) were measured most frequently to estimate DE, but since the 1990s, the most commonly accepted surrogate for DE has been elemental carbon (EC). We developed quantitative estimates of historical exposure levels of respirable elemental carbon (REC) for an epidemiologic study of mortality, particularly lung cancer, among diesel-exposed miners by back-extrapolating 1998–2001 REC exposure levels using historical measurements of carbon monoxide (CO). The choice of CO was based on the availability of historical measurement data. Here, we evaluated the relationship of REC with CO and other current and historical components of DE from side-by-side area measurements taken in underground operations of seven non-metal mining facilities. The Pearson correlation coefficient of the natural log-transformed (Ln)REC measurements with the Ln(CO) measurements was 0.4. The correlation of REC with the other gaseous, organic carbon (OC), and particulate measurements ranged from 0.3 to 0.8. Factor analyses indicated that the gaseous components, including CO, together with REC, loaded most strongly on a presumed ‘Diesel exhaust’ factor, while the OC and particulate agents loaded predominantly on other factors. In addition, the relationship between Ln(REC) and Ln(CO) was approximately linear over a wide range of REC concentrations. The fact that CO correlated with REC, loaded on the same factor, and increased linearly in log–log space supported the use of CO in estimating historical exposure levels to DE.
PMCID: PMC2953555  PMID: 20876234
carbon dioxide; carbon monoxide; diesel exhaust; elemental carbon; miners; nitric oxide; nitrogen dioxide; particulates
6.  The Diesel Exhaust in Miners Study: A Nested Case–Control Study of Lung Cancer and Diesel Exhaust 
Most studies of the association between diesel exhaust exposure and lung cancer suggest a modest, but consistent, increased risk. However, to our knowledge, no study to date has had quantitative data on historical diesel exposure coupled with adequate sample size to evaluate the exposure–response relationship between diesel exhaust and lung cancer. Our purpose was to evaluate the relationship between quantitative estimates of exposure to diesel exhaust and lung cancer mortality after adjustment for smoking and other potential confounders.
We conducted a nested case–control study in a cohort of 12 315 workers in eight non-metal mining facilities, which included 198 lung cancer deaths and 562 incidence density–sampled control subjects. For each case subject, we selected up to four control subjects, individually matched on mining facility, sex, race/ethnicity, and birth year (within 5 years), from all workers who were alive before the day the case subject died. We estimated diesel exhaust exposure, represented by respirable elemental carbon (REC), by job and year, for each subject, based on an extensive retrospective exposure assessment at each mining facility. We conducted both categorical and continuous regression analyses adjusted for cigarette smoking and other potential confounding variables (eg, history of employment in high-risk occupations for lung cancer and a history of respiratory disease) to estimate odds ratios (ORs) and 95% confidence intervals (CIs). Analyses were both unlagged and lagged to exclude recent exposure such as that occurring in the 15 years directly before the date of death (case subjects)/reference date (control subjects). All statistical tests were two-sided.
We observed statistically significant increasing trends in lung cancer risk with increasing cumulative REC and average REC intensity. Cumulative REC, lagged 15 years, yielded a statistically significant positive gradient in lung cancer risk overall (P trend = .001); among heavily exposed workers (ie, above the median of the top quartile [REC ≥ 1005 μg/m3-y]), risk was approximately three times greater (OR = 3.20, 95% CI = 1.33 to 7.69) than that among workers in the lowest quartile of exposure. Among never smokers, odd ratios were 1.0, 1.47 (95% CI = 0.29 to 7.50), and 7.30 (95% CI = 1.46 to 36.57) for workers with 15-year lagged cumulative REC tertiles of less than 8, 8 to less than 304, and 304 μg/m3-y or more, respectively. We also observed an interaction between smoking and 15-year lagged cumulative REC (P interaction = .086) such that the effect of each of these exposures was attenuated in the presence of high levels of the other.
Our findings provide further evidence that diesel exhaust exposure may cause lung cancer in humans and may represent a potential public health burden.
PMCID: PMC3369553  PMID: 22393209
7.  The Diesel Exhaust in Miners Study: A Cohort Mortality Study With Emphasis on Lung Cancer 
Current information points to an association between diesel exhaust exposure and lung cancer and other mortality outcomes, but uncertainties remain.
We undertook a cohort mortality study of 12 315 workers exposed to diesel exhaust at eight US non-metal mining facilities. Historical measurements and surrogate exposure data, along with study industrial hygiene measurements, were used to derive retrospective quantitative estimates of respirable elemental carbon (REC) exposure for each worker. Standardized mortality ratios and internally adjusted Cox proportional hazard models were used to evaluate REC exposure–associated risk. Analyses were both unlagged and lagged to exclude recent exposure such as that occurring in the 15 years directly before the date of death.
Standardized mortality ratios for lung cancer (1.26, 95% confidence interval [CI] = 1.09 to 1.44), esophageal cancer (1.83, 95% CI = 1.16 to 2.75), and pneumoconiosis (12.20, 95% CI = 6.82 to 20.12) were elevated in the complete cohort compared with state-based mortality rates, but all-cause, bladder cancer, heart disease, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease mortality were not. Differences in risk by worker location (ever-underground vs surface only) initially obscured a positive diesel exhaust exposure–response relationship with lung cancer in the complete cohort, although it became apparent after adjustment for worker location. The hazard ratios (HRs) for lung cancer mortality increased with increasing 15-year lagged cumulative REC exposure for ever-underground workers with 5 or more years of tenure to a maximum in the 640 to less than 1280 μg/m3-y category compared with the reference category (0 to <20 μg/m3-y; 30 deaths compared with eight deaths of the total of 93; HR = 5.01, 95% CI = 1.97 to 12.76) but declined at higher exposures. Average REC intensity hazard ratios rose to a plateau around 32 μg/m3. Elevated hazard ratios and evidence of exposure–response were also seen for surface workers. The association between diesel exhaust exposure and lung cancer risk remained after inclusion of other work-related potentially confounding exposures in the models and were robust to alternative approaches to exposure derivation.
The study findings provide further evidence that exposure to diesel exhaust increases risk of mortality from lung cancer and have important public health implications.
PMCID: PMC3373218  PMID: 22393207
8.  Diesel exhaust in miners study: how to understand the findings? 
The Diesel Exhaust in Miners Study (DEMS) is an outstanding epidemiological project on the association between occupational diesel exhaust exposures, measured as long-term respirable elemental carbon (REC) estimates, and lung cancer mortality in a large cohort of US miners. Two articles published recently (Attfield et al. (J Natl Cancer Inst Epub, [2012]), Silverman et al. (J Natl Cancer Inst Epub, [2012])) dsescribed the epidemiological findings. These papers are expected to have considerable impact on the evaluation of the carcinogenic potential of diesel exhaust and, furthermore, on occupational and environmental limit value discussions related to diesel motor emissions and particle exposures. DEMS found remarkable exposure-response relationships between REC exposure estimates and lung cancer mortality - conditional on a pronounced effect of surface vs. underground work on lung cancer risk. If this risk factor is ignored the estimated REC-lung cancer association is attenuated substantially. The authors relied on this risk factor in their main analyses. However, this factor “surface/underground work” remained unexplained. The factor lead the authors to introduce unusual cross-product terms of location and smoking in adjustment procedures and even caused the authors to hypothesize that high REC exposures are protective against lung cancer excess risks due to smoking. To understand the reliability of these conclusions, we should ask basic questions about the data collection process in DEMS: Did the mortality follow-up procedures suffer from errors like those that affected the NCI formaldehyde cohort study? Are the REC and/or smoking data reliable, and are these data collected/constructed in such a way that the procedures allow valid comparisons between surface and underground workers? Without clarifying the issues raised in this Commentary the Diesel Exhaust in Miners Study remains to be difficult to interpret.
PMCID: PMC3403854  PMID: 22676299
Diesel exhaust in miners study; Epidemiology; Lung cancer; Respirable elemental carbon
9.  Lung cancer and diesel exhaust: an updated critical review of the occupational epidemiology literature 
Critical Reviews in Toxicology  2012;42(7):549-598.
A recent review concluded that the evidence from epidemiology studies was indeterminate and that additional studies were required to support the diesel exhaust-lung cancer hypothesis. This updated review includes seven recent studies. Two population-based studies concluded that significant exposure-response (E-R) trends between cumulative diesel exhaust and lung cancer were unlikely to be entirely explained by bias or confounding. Those studies have quality data on life-style risk factors, but do not allow definitive conclusions because of inconsistent E-R trends, qualitative exposure estimates and exposure misclassification (insufficient latency based on job title), and selection bias from low participation rates. Non-definitive results are consistent with the larger body of population studies. An NCI/NIOSH cohort mortality and nested case-control study of non-metal miners have some surrogate-based quantitative diesel exposure estimates (including highest exposure measured as respirable elemental carbon (REC) in the workplace) and smoking histories. The authors concluded that diesel exhaust may cause lung cancer. Nonetheless, the results are non-definitive because the conclusions are based on E-R patterns where high exposures were deleted to achieve significant results, where a posteriori adjustments were made to augment results, and where inappropriate adjustments were made for the “negative confounding” effects of smoking even though current smoking was not associated with diesel exposure and therefore could not be a confounder. Three cohort studies of bus drivers and truck drivers are in effect air pollution studies without estimates of diesel exhaust exposure and so are not sufficient for assessing the lung cancer-diesel exhaust hypothesis. Results from all occupational cohort studies with quantitative estimates of exposure have limitations, including weak and inconsistent E-R associations that could be explained by bias, confounding or chance, exposure misclassification, and often inadequate latency. In sum, the weight of evidence is considered inadequate to confirm the diesel-lung cancer hypothesis.
PMCID: PMC3441149  PMID: 22656672
Cumulative exposure; diesel exhaust; elemental carbon; epidemiology; exposure-response; latency; lung cancer; odds ratio
10.  Mortality of a cohort of tin miners 1941-86. 
The mortality patterns of United Kingdom tin miners were examined in relation to calendar period and duration of underground work with particular attention to lung cancer and exposure to radon. Subjects were all men who had worked for at least one year between 1941 and 1984 at one of two United Kingdom tin mines and for whom a complete work history could be constructed from mine records. Standardised mortality ratios (SMRs) were calculated using national (England and Wales) rates. The pattern of SMRs in relation to potential explanatory variables was analysed using Poisson regression methods. Mortalities from lung cancer and silicosis (including silicotuberculosis) were significantly raised and showed a significant relation with duration of underground work (mortality from stomach cancer was raised in both underground and surface workers, but not significantly). Excess mortality from silica related disease declined steeply from 35% among workers first exposed before 1920 to 1% among those first exposed after 1950. Thirteen surface workers with known exposure to arsenic had high rates of lung and stomach cancer. The SMR for lung cancer showed a consistent pattern in relation to duration of underground exposure, rising from 83 (observed/expected = 8/9.6) for surface workers (without exposure to arsenic) to 447 (15/3.4) for workers with more than 30 years underground exposure. Examination of the SMR for lung cancer by total underground exposure, age, and time since last exposure gave rise to a model for the expression of risk which depends only on total exposure and time since exposure. The fitted model implies that the effect of exposure to radon in a given year has no effect on risk for 10 years, then rapidly rises to a maximum from which the excess risk then declines, halving every 4.3 years. There were no direct measurements of historic radon levels. A conservative estimate based on measurements taken since 1969 by the National Radiological Protection Board and the Mines and Quarries Inspectorate is that the annual dose to an underground worker was about 10 working level months (WLM). Given this assumption, the risk/exposure slope implied by the present data, and the model fitted to it, was somewhat lower than that given in the fourth Committee on the Biological Effects of Ionisation Radiation (BEIR IV) report (about 40% lower for lifetime exposures). The present data also imply different risks depending on the age at exposure, with relatively higher lifetime risks for exposure at older ages, and relatively lower risks for exposures at younger ages. In conclusion, there was a clear relation between exposure to radon and death from lung cancer. The relative risk of lung cancer due to exposure to radon was not constant in cessation of exposure. The lifetime excess risk of lung cancer implied by these data for 40 years exposure at the current statutory limit of four WLM a year starting at age 20, was about 8% (79 excess deaths per 1000 exposed), assuming average smoking habits among the exposed workers. Control of dust concentrations in the mines has substantially reduced--and may have eliminated--direct mortality from silica related disease.
PMCID: PMC1012024  PMID: 2223659
11.  A Retrospective Assessment of Occupational Exposure to Elemental Carbon in the U.S. Trucking Industry 
Environmental Health Perspectives  2011;119(7):997-1002.
Background: Despite considerable epidemiologic evidence about the health effects of chronic exposure to vehicle exhaust, efforts at defining the extent of risk have been limited by the lack of historical exposure measurements suitable for use in epidemiologic studies and for risk assessment.
Objectives: We sought to reconstruct exposure to elemental carbon (EC), a marker of diesel and other vehicle exhaust exposure, in a large national cohort of U.S. trucking industry workers.
Methods: We identified the predictors of measured exposures based on a statistical model and used this information to extrapolate exposures across the cohort nationally. These estimates were adjusted for changes in work-related conditions over time based on a previous exposure assessment of this industry, and for changes in background levels based on a trend analysis of historical air pollution data, to derive monthly estimates of EC exposure for each job and trucking terminal combination between 1971 and 2000.
Results: Occupational exposure to EC declined substantially over time, and we found significant variability in estimated exposures both within and across job groups, trucking terminals, and regions of the United States. Average estimated EC exposures during a typical work shift ranged from < 1 μg/m3 in the lowest exposed category in the 1990s to > 40 μg/m3 for workers in the highest exposed jobs in the 1970s.
Conclusions: Our results provide a framework for understanding changes over time in exposure to EC in the U.S. trucking industry. Our assessment should minimize exposure misclassification by capturing variation among terminals and across U.S. regions, and changes over time.
PMCID: PMC3222985  PMID: 21447452
air pollution; diesel; lung cancer; occupational health; traffic exposure; trucking industry
12.  Mortality of Sardinian lead and zinc miners: 1960-88. 
The mortality of 4740 male workers of two lead and zinc mines was followed up from 1960 to 1988. Exposure to respirable dust was comparable in the two mines, but the median concentration of silica in respirable dust was 10-fold higher in mine B (12.8%) than in mine A (1.2%), but the mean annual exposure to radon daughters in underground workplaces differed in the opposite direction (mine A: 0.13 working levels (WL), mine B: 0.011 WL). Total observed deaths (1205) were similar to expected figures (1156.3) over a total of 119 390.5 person-years at risk. Underground workers of mine B had significant increases in risk of pulmonary tuberculosis (SMR 706, 95% confidence interval (95% CI) 473-1014) and non-malignant respiratory diseases (SMR 518; 95% CI 440-1606), whereas the only significant excess at mine A was for non-malignant respiratory diseases (SMR 246; 95% CI 191-312). Total cancer and lung cancer mortality did not exceed the expectation in the two mines combined. A 15% excess mortality for lung cancer, increased up to an SMR 204 (95% CI 89-470) for subjects employed > or = 26 years, was, however, found among underground workers in mine A who on the average experienced an exposure to radon daughters 10-fold higher than those of mine B. By contrast, despite their higher exposure to silica, mine B underground workers experienced a lower than expected lung cancer mortality. A ninefold increase in risk of peritoneal and retroperitoneal cancer combined was also found among underground workers of mine A (SMR 917; 95% CI 250-2347; based on four deaths). A causal association with workplace exposures is unlikely, however, as the SMR showed an inverse trend by duration of employment. These findings are consistent with low level exposure to radon daughters as a risk factor for lung cancer among metal miners. Exposure to silica at the levels estimated for the mine B underground environment did not increase the risk of lung cancer.
PMCID: PMC1128076  PMID: 8000492
13.  Occupational exposure to diesel engine exhaust: A literature review 
Diesel exhaust (DE) is classified as a probable human carcinogen. Aims were to describe the major occupational uses of diesel engines and give an overview of personal DE exposure levels and determinants of exposure as reported in the published literature.
Measurements representative of personal DE exposure were abstracted from the literature for the following agents: elemental carbon (EC), particulate matter (PM), carbon monoxide (CO), nitrogen oxide (NO), and nitrogen dioxide (NO2). Information on determinants of exposure was abstracted.
In total, 3528 EC, 4166 PM, 581 CO, 322 NO, and 1404 NO2 measurements were abstracted. From the 10,001 measurements, 32% represented exposure from on-road vehicles, and 68% from off-road vehicles (30% mining, 15% railroad, and 22% other). Highest levels were reported for enclosed underground work sites where heavy equipment is used: mining, mine maintenance, and construction, (EC: 27-658 μg/m3). Intermediate exposure levels were generally reported for above ground (semi-)enclosed areas where smaller equipment was run: mechanics in a shop, emergency workers in fire stations, distribution workers at a dock, and workers loading/unloading inside a ferry (generally: EC< 50 μg/m3). Lowest levels were reported for enclosed areas separated from the source such as drivers and train crew, or outside such as surface mining, parking attendants, vehicle testers, utility service workers, surface construction and airline ground personnel (EC<25 μg/m3). The other agents showed a similar pattern. Determinants of exposure reported for enclosed situations were ventilation and exhaust after treatment devices.
Reported DE exposure levels were highest for underground mining and construction, intermediate for working in above ground (semi-)enclosed areas and lowest for working outside or separated from the source. The presented data can be used as a basis for assessing occupational exposure in population-based epidemiological studies and guide future exposure assessment efforts for industrial hygiene and epidemiological studies.
PMCID: PMC3073453  PMID: 19277070
diesel exhaust; occupational; review; exposure; determinant
14.  Prostate cancer mortality risk in relation to working underground in the Wismut cohort study of German uranium miners, 1970–2003 
BMJ Open  2012;2(3):e001002.
A recent study and comprehensive literature review has indicated that mining could be protective against prostate cancer. This indication has been explored further here by analysing prostate cancer mortality in the German ‘Wismut’ uranium miner cohort, which has detailed information on the number of days worked underground.
An historical cohort study of 58 987 male mine workers with retrospective follow-up before 1999 and prospective follow-up since 1999.
Setting and participants
Uranium mine workers employed during the period 1970–1990 in the regions of Saxony and Thuringia, Germany, contributing 1.42 million person-years of follow-up ending in 2003.
Outcome measure
Simple standardised mortality ratio (SMR) analyses were applied to assess differences between the national and cohort prostate cancer mortality rates and complemented by refined analyses done entirely within the cohort. The internal comparisons applied Poisson regression excess relative prostate cancer mortality risk model with background stratification by age and calendar year and a whole range of possible explanatory covariables that included days worked underground and years worked at high physical activity with γ radiation treated as a confounder.
The analysis is based on miner data for 263 prostate cancer deaths. The overall SMR was 0.85 (95% CI 0.75 to 0.95). A linear excess relative risk model with the number of years worked at high physical activity and the number of days worked underground as explanatory covariables provided a statistically significant fit when compared with the background model (p=0.039). Results (with 95% CIs) for the excess relative risk per day worked underground indicated a statistically significant (p=0.0096) small protective effect of −5.59 (−9.81 to −1.36) ×10−5.
Evidence is provided from the German Wismut cohort in support of a protective effect from working underground on prostate cancer mortality risk.
Article summary
Article focus
Prostate cancer mortality in the Wismut cohort of German uranium miners in relation to time spent working underground and the time worked at high physical activity.
Key messages
Evidence is provided from the German Wismut cohort in support of a protective effect from working underground on prostate cancer mortality risk.
Strengths and limitations of this study
The Wismut study is currently the largest Uranium miner cohort.
There is detailed information on the time spent working underground and on other relevant occupational covariables.
However, there is no information on whether the shifts worked were early, late or at night.
PMCID: PMC3371580  PMID: 22685223
15.  Mutation rates at the glycophorin A and HPRT loci in uranium miners exposed to radon progeny. 
OBJECTIVES--To find whether a relation exists between estimated levels of exposure to radon and its progeny and mutations in hypoxanthine phosphoribosyl transferase (HPRT) and glycophorin A in a cohort of former uranium miners. METHODS--A cohort study involving a sample of miners from the Radium Hill uranium mine in South Australia, which operated from 1952 to 1961. Radiation exposures underground at Radium Hill were estimated from historical radon gas measures with a job exposure matrix. Workers from the mine who worked exclusively above ground according to mine records were selected as controls. In 1991-2 miners were interviewed and blood taken for measurement of somatic mutations. Mutation rates for HPRT and glycophorin A were estimated with standard assay techniques. RESULTS--Homozygous mutations of glycophorin A were increased in underground miners (P = 0.0027) and the mutation rate tended to rise with increasing exposure with the exception of the highest exposure (> 10 working level months). However, there was no association between place of work and either the hemizygous mutations of glycophorin A or the HPRT mutation. CONCLUSIONS--There may be an association between glycophorin A mutations and previous occupational exposure to ionising radiation. However, not enough is known at present to use these assays as biomarkers for historical exposure in underground mining cohorts.
PMCID: PMC1128510  PMID: 8704866
16.  Exposure to silica and silicosis among tin miners in China: exposure-response analyses and risk assessment 
OBJECTIVES—To investigate the risk of silicosis among tin miners and to investigate the relation between silicosis and cumulative exposure to dust (Chinese total dust and respirable crystalline silica dust).
METHODS—A cohort study of 3010 miners exposed to silica dust and employed for at least 1 year during 1960-5 in any of four Chinese tin mines was conducted. Historical total dust data from China were used to create a job exposure matrix for facility, job title, and calendar year. The total dust exposure data from China were converted to estimates of exposure to respirable crystalline silica for comparison with findings from other epidemiological studies of silicosis. Each worker's work history was abstracted from the complete employment records in mine files. Diagnoses of silicosis were based on 1986 Chinese pneumoconiosis Roentgen diagnostic criteria, which classified silicosis as stages I-III—similar to an International Labour Organisation (ILO) classification of 1/1 or greater.
RESULTS—There were 1015 (33.7%) miners identified with silicosis, who had a mean age of 48.3 years, with a mean of 21.3 years after first exposure (equivalent to 11.0 net years in a dusty job). Among those who had silicosis, 684 miners (67.4%) developed silicosis after exposure ended (a mean of 3.7 years after). The risk of silicosis was strongly related to cumulative exposure to silica dust and was well fitted by the Weibull distribution, with the risk of silicosis less than 0.1% when the Chinese measure of cumulative exposure to total dust (CTD) was under 10 mg/m3-years (or 0.36 mg/m3-years of respirable crystalline silica), increasing to 68.7% when CTD exposure was 150 mg/m3-years (or 5.4 mg/m3-years of respirable crystalline silica). Latency period was not correlated to the risk of silicosis or cumulative dose of exposure. This study predicts about a 36% cumulative risk of silicosis for a 45 year lifetime exposure to these tin mine dusts at the CTD exposure standard of 2 mg/m3, and a 55% risk at 45 years exposure to the current United States Occupational Safety and Health Administration and Mine Safety and Health Administration standards of 0.1 mg/m3 100% respirable crystalline silica dust.
CONCLUSIONS—A clear exposure-response relation was detected for silicosis in Chinese tin miners. The study results were similar to most, but not all, findings from other large scale exposure-response studies.

Keywords: silicosis; exposure to silica; dose-response relation
PMCID: PMC1740032  PMID: 11119632
17.  Lung cancer in a nonsmoking underground uranium miner. 
Environmental Health Perspectives  2001;109(3):305-309.
Working in mines is associated with acute and chronic occupational disorders. Most of the uranium mining in the United States took place in the Four Corners region of the Southwest (Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico, and Utah) and on Native American lands. Although the uranium industry collapsed in the late 1980s, the industry employed several thousand individuals who continue to be at increased risk for developing lung cancers. We present the case of a 72-year-old Navajo male who worked for 17 years as an underground uranium miner and who developed lung cancer 22 years after leaving the industry. His total occupational exposure to radon progeny was estimated at 506 working level months. The miner was a life-long nonsmoker and had no other significant occupational or environmental exposures. On the chest X-ray taken at admission into the hospital, a right lower lung zone infiltrate was detected. The patient was treated for community-acquired pneumonia and developed respiratory failure requiring mechanical ventilation. Respiratory failure worsened and the patient died 19 days after presenting. On autopsy, a 2.5 cm squamous cell carcinoma of the right lung arising from the lower lobe bronchus, a right broncho-esophageal fistula, and a right lower lung abscess were found. Malignant respiratory disease in uranium miners may be from several occupational exposures; for example, radon decay products, silica, and possibly diesel exhaust are respiratory carcinogens that were commonly encountered. In response to a growing number of affected uranium miners, the Radiation Exposure Compensation Act (RECA) was passed by the U.S. Congress in 1990 to make partial restitution to individuals harmed by radiation exposure resulting from underground uranium mining and above-ground nuclear tests in Nevada.
PMCID: PMC1240251  PMID: 11333194
18.  Heat exhaustion in a deep underground metalliferous mine 
OBJECTIVES—To examine the incidence, clinical state, personal risk factors, haematology, and biochemistry of heat exhaustion occurring at a deep underground metalliferous mine. To describe the underground thermal conditions associated with the occurrence of heat exhaustion.
METHODS—A 1 year prospective case series of acute heat exhaustion was undertaken. A history was obtained with a structured questionnaire. Pulse rate, blood pressure, tympanic temperature, and specific gravity of urine were measured before treatment. Venous blood was analysed for haematological and biochemical variables, during the acute presentation and after recovery. Body mass index (BMI) and maximum O2 consumption (V̇O2 max) were measured after recovery. Psychrometric wet bulb temperature, dry bulb temperature, and air velocity were measured at the underground sites where heat exhaustion had occurred. Air cooling power and psychrometric wet bulb globe temperature were derived from these data.
RESULTS—106 Cases were studied. The incidence of heat exhaustion during the year was 43.0 cases / million man-hours. In February it was 147 cases / million man-hours. The incidence rate ratio for mines operating below 1200 m compared with those operating above 1200 m was 3.17. Mean estimated fluid intake was 0.64 l/h (SD 0.29, range 0.08-1.50). The following data were increased in acute presentation compared with recovery (p value, % of acute cases above the normal clinical range): neutrophils (p<0.001, 36%), anion gap (p<0.001, 63%), urea (p<0.001, 21%), creatinine (p<0.001, 30%), glucose (p<0.001, 15%), serum osmolality (p=0.030, 71%), creatine kinase (p=0.002, 45%), aspartate transaminase (p<0.001, 14%), lactate dehydrogenase (p<0.001, 9.5%), and ferritin (p<0.001, 26%). The following data were depressed in acute presentation compared with recovery (p value, % of acute cases below the normal clinical range): eosinophils (p=0.003, 38%) and bicarbonate (p=0.011, 32%). Urea and creatinine were significantly increased in miners with heat cramps compared with miners without this symptom (p<0.001), but there was no significant difference in sodium concentration (p=0.384). Mean psychrometric wet bulb temperature was 29.0°C (SD 2.2, range 21.0-34.0). Mean dry bulb temperature was 37.4°C (SD 2.4, range 31.0-43.0). Mean air velocity was 0.54 m/s (SD 0.57, range 0.00-4.00). Mean air cooling power was 148 W/m2 (SD 49, range 33-290) Mean psychrometric wet bulb globe temperature was 31.5°C (SD 2.0, range 25.2-35.3). Few cases (<5%) occurred at psychrometric wet bulb temperature <25.0°C, dry bulb temperature <33.8°C, air velocity >1.56 m/s, air cooling power >248 W/m2, or psychrometric wet bulb globe temperature <28.5°C.
CONCLUSION—Heat exhaustion in underground miners is associated with dehydration, neutrophil leukocytosis, eosinopenia, metabolic acidosis, increased glucose and ferritin, and a mild rise in creatine kinase, aspartate transaminase, and lactate dehydrogenase. Heat cramps are associated with dehydration but not hyponatraemia. The incidence of heat exhaustion increases during summer and at depth. An increased fluid intake is required. Heat exhaustion would be unlikely to occur if ventilation and refrigeration achieved air cooling power >250 W/m2 at all underground work sites.

Keywords: heat; mining; ventilation
PMCID: PMC1739920  PMID: 10810098
19.  Combining a Job-Exposure Matrix with Exposure Measurements to Assess Occupational Exposure to Benzene in a Population Cohort in Shanghai, China 
Annals of Occupational Hygiene  2011;56(1):80-91.
Generic job-exposure matrices (JEMs) are often used in population-based epidemiologic studies to assess occupational risk factors when only the job and industry information of each subject is available. JEM ratings are often based on professional judgment, are usually ordinal or semi-quantitative, and often do not account for changes in exposure over time. We present an empirical Bayesian framework that combines ordinal subjective JEM ratings with benzene measurements. Our aim was to better discriminate between job, industry, and time differences in exposure levels compared to using a JEM alone.
We combined 63 221 short-term area air measurements of benzene exposure (1954–2000) collected during routine health and safety inspections in Shanghai, China, with independently developed JEM intensity ratings for each job and industry using a mixed-effects model. The fixed-effects terms included the JEM intensity ratings for job and industry (both ordinal, 0–3) and a time trend that we incorporated as a b-spline. The random-effects terms included job (n = 33) and industry nested within job (n = 399). We predicted the benzene concentration in two ways: (i) a calibrated JEM estimate was calculated using the fixed-effects model parameters for calendar year and JEM intensity ratings; (ii) a job-/industry-specific estimate was calculated using the fixed-effects model parameters and the best linear unbiased predictors from the random effects for job and industry using an empirical Bayes estimation procedure. Finally, we applied the predicted benzene exposures to a prospective population-based cohort of women in Shanghai, China (n = 74 942).
Exposure levels were 13 times higher in 1965 than in 2000 and declined at a rate that varied from 4 to 15% per year from 1965 to 1985, followed by a small peak in the mid-1990s. The job-/industry-specific estimates had greater differences between exposure levels than the calibrated JEM estimates (97.5th percentile/2.5th percentile exposure level, BGR95B: 20.4 versus 3.0, respectively). The calibrated JEM and job-/industry-specific estimates were moderately correlated in any given year (Pearson correlation, rp = 0.58). We classified only those jobs and industries with a job or industry JEM exposure probability rating of 3 (>50% of workers exposed) as exposed. As a result, 14.8% of the subjects and 8.7% of the employed person-years in the study population were classified as benzene exposed. The cumulative exposure metrics based on the calibrated JEM and job-/industry-specific estimates were highly correlated (rp = 0.88).
We provide a useful framework for combining quantitative exposure data with expert-based exposure ratings in population-based studies that maximized the information from both sources. Our framework calibrated the ratings to a concentration scale between ratings and across time and provided a mechanism to estimate exposure when a job/industry group reported by a subject was not represented in the exposure database. It also allowed the job/industry groups’ exposure levels to deviate from the pooled average for their respective JEM intensity ratings.
PMCID: PMC3259038  PMID: 21976309
benzene; job-exposure matrix; mixed-effects models; retrospective exposure assessment
20.  Respiratory health effects of opencast coalmining: a cross sectional study of current workers. 
OBJECTIVE: To identify whether there is evidence of pneumoconiosis and other respiratory health effects associated with exposure to respirable mixed dust and quartz in United Kingdom opencast coalmines. METHODS: A cross sectional study of current workers (1224 men, 25 women) was carried out at nine large and medium sized opencast sites in England, Scotland, and Wales. To characterise a range of occupational groups within the industry, full shift measurements of personal exposures to respirable dust and quartz were taken. Up to three surveys were carried out at each site, covering all four seasons. For the purposes of comparisons with health indices these groups were further condensed into five broad combined occupational groups. Full sized chest radiographs, respiratory symptoms, occupational history questionnaires, and simple spirometry were used to characterise the respiratory health of the workforce. Logistic or multiple regression techniques were used to examine relations between indices of exposure and respiratory health. RESULTS: None of the group geometric mean dust concentrations, based on 626 valid dust samples, exceeded 1 mg.m-3, and 99% of all quartz concentrations were below 0.4 mg.m-3, the current maximum exposure limit. The highest quartz concentrations were experienced by the rock drilling team and drivers of bulldozers (used to move earth and stone from layers of coal). There were clear differences in mean respirable dust and quartz concentrations between occupational groups. These were consistent across the different sites, but depended in part on the day of measurement. The variations between sites were not much greater than between days, suggesting that differences between sites were at least partly explained by differences in conditions at the time of the measurements. The prevalence of radiographic small opacities profusion category > or = 1/0, based on the median of three readings, was 4.4%. Five men had category 2 pneumoconiosis and two men (including one of these five) had progressive massive fibrosis category A. From regression analyses, the relative risk of attaining a profusion of category > or = 0/1 was estimated to be doubled for every 10 years worked in the dustiest, preproduction opencast jobs, after allowing for age, smoking, and site effects. Risk was not associated with time worked in any other occupation within the industry, nor with previous employment in underground mining or other dusty jobs. Symptoms of chronic bronchitis were present in 13% of the men. Frequency of chronic bronchitis was influenced by years worked in dusty jobs outside opencast mining, but not by time spent in occupations within the industry. Asthmatic symptoms were reported by 5% of the workforce, close to the mean frequency found in adult men. No positive associations were found between asthma and occupational exposures. Lung function on average was close to predicted value and showed no relation to time worked in opencast occupations. CONCLUSIONS: Frequency of (mostly mild) chest radiographic abnormalities is associated with working in the dustier, preproduction jobs in the industry. Although some of these mild abnormalities may be non-occupational (due to aging or smoking), the association with exposure indicates a small risk of pneumoconiosis in these men, and the need to monitor and control exposures, particularly in the high risk occupations.
PMCID: PMC1128802  PMID: 9245948
21.  Long-Term Exposure to Silica Dust and Risk of Total and Cause-Specific Mortality in Chinese Workers: A Cohort Study 
PLoS Medicine  2012;9(4):e1001206.
A retro-prospective cohort study by Weihong Chen and colleagues provides new estimates for the risk of total and cause-specific mortality due to long-term silica dust exposure among Chinese workers.
Human exposure to silica dust is very common in both working and living environments. However, the potential long-term health effects have not been well established across different exposure situations.
Methods and Findings
We studied 74,040 workers who worked at 29 metal mines and pottery factories in China for 1 y or more between January 1, 1960, and December 31, 1974, with follow-up until December 31, 2003 (median follow-up of 33 y). We estimated the cumulative silica dust exposure (CDE) for each worker by linking work history to a job–exposure matrix. We calculated standardized mortality ratios for underlying causes of death based on Chinese national mortality rates. Hazard ratios (HRs) for selected causes of death associated with CDE were estimated using the Cox proportional hazards model. The population attributable risks were estimated based on the prevalence of workers with silica dust exposure and HRs. The number of deaths attributable to silica dust exposure among Chinese workers was then calculated using the population attributable risk and the national mortality rate. We observed 19,516 deaths during 2,306,428 person-years of follow-up. Mortality from all causes was higher among workers exposed to silica dust than among non-exposed workers (993 versus 551 per 100,000 person-years). We observed significant positive exposure–response relationships between CDE (measured in milligrams/cubic meter–years, i.e., the sum of silica dust concentrations multiplied by the years of silica exposure) and mortality from all causes (HR 1.026, 95% confidence interval 1.023–1.029), respiratory diseases (1.069, 1.064–1.074), respiratory tuberculosis (1.065, 1.059–1.071), and cardiovascular disease (1.031, 1.025–1.036). Significantly elevated standardized mortality ratios were observed for all causes (1.06, 95% confidence interval 1.01–1.11), ischemic heart disease (1.65, 1.35–1.99), and pneumoconiosis (11.01, 7.67–14.95) among workers exposed to respirable silica concentrations equal to or lower than 0.1 mg/m3. After adjustment for potential confounders, including smoking, silica dust exposure accounted for 15.2% of all deaths in this study. We estimated that 4.2% of deaths (231,104 cases) among Chinese workers were attributable to silica dust exposure. The limitations of this study included a lack of data on dietary patterns and leisure time physical activity, possible underestimation of silica dust exposure for individuals who worked at the mines/factories before 1950, and a small number of deaths (4.3%) where the cause of death was based on oral reports from relatives.
Long-term silica dust exposure was associated with substantially increased mortality among Chinese workers. The increased risk was observed not only for deaths due to respiratory diseases and lung cancer, but also for deaths due to cardiovascular disease.
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Editors' Summary
Walk along most sandy beaches and you will be walking on millions of grains of crystalline silica, one of the commonest minerals on earth and a major ingredient in glass and in ceramic glazes. Silica is also used in the manufacture of building materials, in foundry castings, and for sandblasting, and respirable (breathable) crystalline silica particles are produced during quarrying and mining. Unfortunately, silica dust is not innocuous. Several serious diseases are associated with exposure to this dust, including silicosis (a chronic lung disease characterized by scarring and destruction of lung tissue), lung cancer, and pulmonary tuberculosis (a serious lung infection). Moreover, exposure to silica dust increases the risk of death (mortality). Worryingly, recent reports indicate that in the US and Europe, about 1.7 and 3.0 million people, respectively, are occupationally exposed to silica dust, figures that are dwarfed by the more than 23 million workers who are exposed in China. Occupational silica exposure, therefore, represents an important global public health concern.
Why Was This Study Done?
Although the lung-related adverse health effects of exposure to silica dust have been extensively studied, silica-related health effects may not be limited to these diseases. For example, could silica dust particles increase the risk of cardiovascular disease (diseases that affect the heart and circulation)? Other environmental particulates, such as the products of internal combustion engines, are associated with an increased risk of cardiovascular disease, but no one knows if the same is true for silica dust particles. Moreover, although it is clear that high levels of exposure to silica dust are dangerous, little is known about the adverse health effects of lower exposure levels. In this cohort study, the researchers examined the effect of long-term exposure to silica dust on the risk of all cause and cause-specific mortality in a large group (cohort) of Chinese workers.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
The researchers estimated the cumulative silica dust exposure for 74,040 workers at 29 metal mines and pottery factories from 1960 to 2003 from individual work histories and more than four million measurements of workplace dust concentrations, and collected health and mortality data for all the workers. Death from all causes was higher among workers exposed to silica dust than among non-exposed workers (993 versus 551 deaths per 100,000 person-years), and there was a positive exposure–response relationship between silica dust exposure and death from all causes, respiratory diseases, respiratory tuberculosis, and cardiovascular disease. For example, the hazard ratio for all cause death was 1.026 for every increase in cumulative silica dust exposure of 1 mg/m3-year; a hazard ratio is the incidence of an event in an exposed group divided by its incidence in an unexposed group. Notably, there was significantly increased mortality from all causes, ischemic heart disease, and silicosis among workers exposed to respirable silica concentrations at or below 0.1 mg/m3, the workplace exposure limit for silica dust set by the US Occupational Safety and Health Administration. For example, the standardized mortality ratio (SMR) for silicosis among people exposed to low levels of silica dust was 11.01; an SMR is the ratio of observed deaths in a cohort to expected deaths calculated from recorded deaths in the general population. Finally, the researchers used their data to estimate that, in 2008, 4.2% of deaths among industrial workers in China (231,104 deaths) were attributable to silica dust exposure.
What Do These Findings Mean?
These findings indicate that long-term silica dust exposure is associated with substantially increased mortality among Chinese workers. They confirm that there is an exposure–response relationship between silica dust exposure and a heightened risk of death from respiratory diseases and lung cancer. That is, the risk of death from these diseases increases as exposure to silica dust increases. In addition, they show a significant relationship between silica dust exposure and death from cardiovascular diseases. Importantly, these findings suggest that even levels of silica dust that are considered safe increase the risk of death. The accuracy of these findings may be affected by the accuracy of the silica dust exposure estimates and/or by confounding (other factors shared by the people exposed to silica such as diet may have affected their risk of death). Nevertheless, these findings highlight the need to tighten regulations on workplace dust control in China and elsewhere.
Additional Information
Please access these websites via the online version of this summary at
The American Lung Association provides information on silicosis
The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention provides information on silica in the workplace, including links to relevant US National Institute for Occupational Health and Safety publications, and information on silicosis and other pneumoconioses
The US Occupational Safety and Health Administration also has detailed information on occupational exposure to crystalline silica
What does silicosis mean to you is a video provided by the US Mine Safety and Health Administration that includes personal experiences of silicosis; Dont let silica dust you is a video produced by the Association of Occupational and Environmental Clinics that identifies ways to reduce silica dust exposure in the workplace
The MedlinePlus encyclopedia has a page on silicosis (in English and Spanish)
The International Labour Organization provides information on health surveillance for those exposed to respirable crystalline silica
The World Health Organization has published a report about the health effects of crystalline silica and quartz
PMCID: PMC3328438  PMID: 22529751
22.  Evaluation of a Portable Photometer for Estimating Diesel Particulate Matter Concentrations in an Underground Limestone Mine 
Annals of Occupational Hygiene  2010;54(5):566-574.
A low cost, battery-operated, portable, real-time aerosol analyzer is not available for monitoring diesel particulate matter (DPM) concentrations in underground mines. This study summarizes a field evaluation conducted at an underground limestone mine to evaluate the potential of the TSI AM 510 portable photometer (equipped with a Dorr-Oliver cyclone and 1.0-μm impactor) to qualitatively track time-weighted average mass and elemental, organic, and total carbon (TC) measurements associated with diesel emissions. The calibration factor corrected correlation coefficient (R2) between the underground TC and photometer measurements was 0.93. The main issues holding back the use of a photometer for real-time estimation of DPM in an underground mine are the removal of non-DPM-associated particulate matter from the aerosol stream using devices, such as a cyclone and/or impactor and calibration of the photometer to mine-specific aerosol.
PMCID: PMC2913759  PMID: 20410071
diesel exhaust; diesel particulate matter; direct-reading instruments; photometer; real-time measurement
23.  Comparison of Algorithm-based Estimates of Occupational Diesel Exhaust Exposure to Those of Multiple Independent Raters in a Population-based Case–Control Study 
Annals of Occupational Hygiene  2012;57(4):470-481.
Algorithm-based exposure assessments based on patterns in questionnaire responses and professional judgment can readily apply transparent exposure decision rules to thousands of jobs quickly. However, we need to better understand how algorithms compare to a one-by-one job review by an exposure assessor. We compared algorithm-based estimates of diesel exhaust exposure to those of three independent raters within the New England Bladder Cancer Study, a population-based case–control study, and identified conditions under which disparities occurred in the assessments of the algorithm and the raters.
Occupational diesel exhaust exposure was assessed previously using an algorithm and a single rater for all 14 983 jobs reported by 2631 study participants during personal interviews conducted from 2001 to 2004. Two additional raters independently assessed a random subset of 324 jobs that were selected based on strata defined by the cross-tabulations of the algorithm and the first rater’s probability assessments for each job, oversampling their disagreements. The algorithm and each rater assessed the probability, intensity and frequency of occupational diesel exhaust exposure, as well as a confidence rating for each metric. Agreement among the raters, their aggregate rating (average of the three raters’ ratings) and the algorithm were evaluated using proportion of agreement, kappa and weighted kappa (κw). Agreement analyses on the subset used inverse probability weighting to extrapolate the subset to estimate agreement for all jobs. Classification and Regression Tree (CART) models were used to identify patterns in questionnaire responses that predicted disparities in exposure status (i.e., unexposed versus exposed) between the first rater and the algorithm-based estimates.
For the probability, intensity and frequency exposure metrics, moderate to moderately high agreement was observed among raters (κw = 0.50–0.76) and between the algorithm and the individual raters (κw = 0.58–0.81). For these metrics, the algorithm estimates had consistently higher agreement with the aggregate rating (κw = 0.82) than with the individual raters. For all metrics, the agreement between the algorithm and the aggregate ratings was highest for the unexposed category (90–93%) and was poor to moderate for the exposed categories (9–64%). Lower agreement was observed for jobs with a start year <1965 versus ≥1965. For the confidence metrics, the agreement was poor to moderate among raters (κw = 0.17–0.45) and between the algorithm and the individual raters (κw = 0.24–0.61). CART models identified patterns in the questionnaire responses that predicted a fair-to-moderate (33–89%) proportion of the disagreements between the raters’ and the algorithm estimates.
The agreement between any two raters was similar to the agreement between an algorithm-based approach and individual raters, providing additional support for using the more efficient and transparent algorithm-based approach. CART models identified some patterns in disagreements between the first rater and the algorithm. Given the absence of a gold standard for estimating exposure, these patterns can be reviewed by a team of exposure assessors to determine whether the algorithm should be revised for future studies.
PMCID: PMC3629988  PMID: 23184256
case–control; diesel exhaust; expert judgement; exposure assessment
24.  Health effects research and regulation of diesel exhaust: an historical overview focused on lung cancer risk 
Inhalation Toxicology  2012;24(s1):1-45.
The mutagenicity of organic solvent extracts from diesel exhaust particulate (DEP), first noted more than 55 years ago, initiated an avalanche of diesel exhaust (DE) health effects research that now totals more than 6000 published studies. Despite an extensive body of results, scientific debate continues regarding the nature of the lung cancer risk posed by inhalation of occupational and environmental DE, with much of the debate focused on DEP. Decades of scientific scrutiny and increasingly stringent regulation have resulted in major advances in diesel engine technologies. The changed particulate matter (PM) emissions in “New Technology Diesel Exhaust (NTDE)” from today's modern low-emission, advanced-technology on-road heavy-duty diesel engines now resemble the PM emissions in contemporary gasoline engine exhaust (GEE) and compressed natural gas engine exhaust more than those in the “traditional diesel exhaust” (TDE) characteristic of older diesel engines. Even with the continued publication of epidemiologic analyses of TDE-exposed populations, this database remains characterized by findings of small increased lung cancer risks and inconsistent evidence of exposure-response trends, both within occupational cohorts and across occupational groups considered to have markedly different exposures (e.g. truckers versus railroad shopworkers versus underground miners). The recently published National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH)-National Cancer Institute (NCI) epidemiologic studies of miners provide some of the strongest findings to date regarding a DE-lung cancer association, but some inconsistent exposure-response findings and possible effects of bias and exposure misclassification raise questions regarding their interpretation. Laboratory animal studies are negative for lung tumors in all species, except for rats under lifetime TDE-exposure conditions with durations and concentrations that lead to'lung overload."The species specificity of the rat lung response to overload, and its occurrence with other particle types, is now well-understood. It is thus generally accepted that the rat bioassay for inhaled particles under conditions of lung overload is not predictive of human lung cancer hazard. Overall, despite an abundance of epidemiologic and experimental data, there remain questions as to whether TDE exposure causes increased lung cancers in humans. An abundance of emissions characterization data, as well as preliminary toxicological data, support NTDE as being toxicologically distinct from TDE. Currently, neither epidemiologic data nor animal bioassay data yet exist that directly bear on NTDE carcinogenic potential. A chronic bioassay of NTDE currently in progress will provide data on whether NTDE poses a carcinogenic hazard, but based on the significant reductions in PM mass emissions and the major changes in PM composition, it has been hypothesized that NTDE has a low carcinogenic potential. When the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) reevaluates DE (along with GEE and nitroarenes) in June 2012, it will be the first authoritative body to assess DE carcinogenic health hazards since the emergence of NTDE and the accumulation of data differentiating NTDE from TDE.
PMCID: PMC3423304  PMID: 22663144
Diesel exhaust; diesel emissions; lung cancer; new technology diesel exhaust (NTDE); epidemiology; mechanism; lung overload; elemental carbon; particulate matter; diesel particulate filter (DPF)
25.  Mortality of iron miners in Lorraine (France): relations between lung function and respiratory symptoms and subsequent mortality. 
British Journal of Industrial Medicine  1993;50(11):1017-1031.
An increased mortality from lung and stomach cancer was found in previous studies on Lorraine iron miners. A detailed analysis, however, was not possible due to the lack of data for survivors. In this study the cohort included 1178 workers selected at random from all the 5300 working miners aged between 35 and 55 at the start of the follow up period, which ranged from 1975 to 1985. Occupational exposures and tobacco consumption, lung function tests, and respiratory symptoms were assessed for each subject in 1975, 1980, and 1985. This study confirmed the excess of lung cancer (standardised mortality ratio (SMR) = 389, p < 0.001) and of stomach cancer (SMR = 273, p < 0.05). There was no excess of lung cancer in non-smokers and moderate smokers (< 20 pack-years) or the miners who worked only at the surface or underground for less than 20 years. A significant excess (SMR = 349, p < 0.001) was found in moderate smokers when they worked underground for between 20 and 29 years. Heavy smokers (over 30 pack-years) or subjects who worked underground for more than 30 years experienced a high risk: SMR = 478 (p < 0.001) for moderate smokers who worked underground for over 30 years; 588 (p < 0.001) for heavy smokers who worked underground for between 20 and 29 years; and 877 (p < 0.001) for heavy smokers who worked underground for over 30 years. This showed an interaction between smoking and occupational exposure. The excess mortality from lung cancer was because there were some subjects who died young (from 45 years old). Comparison with the results of a previous study showed that additional hazards produced by diesel engines and explosives increased the mortality from lung cancer. The SMR was higher than 400 (p < 0.001) from 45 years old instead of from 56 years. A relation was found between a decrease in vital capacity (VC), forced expiratory volume in one second (FEV1) and of FEV1/VC and mortality from all causes and from lung cancer in heavy smokers or men who had worked underground for more than 20 years. Respiratory symptoms were related to mortality from lung cancer among smokers (moderate and heavy) who worked underground for more than 20 years. It is considered that the risk of lung cancer in the Lorraine iron miners was mainly due to dust, diesel engines, and explosives although the role of low exposure to radon daughters could not be totally excluded.
PMCID: PMC1035537  PMID: 8280627

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