The production of vinyl chloride (VC) and polyvinyl chloride (PVC) involves the use of various chemicals, some known to be toxic and potentially or definitely carcinogenic. The related potential risk often has not been properly investigated. Updated cancer mortality among different subgroups of workers employed in a VC-PVC production plant located in Porto Marghera (Italy) was re-analyzed using an internal reference group of workers with low (or null) exposure to VC.
Mortality of 1658 male workers was analyzed by Poisson regression. Relative risks (RRs) and 95% confidence intervals (CIs) for blue collar workers and their specific subgroups of PVC baggers, PVC compound, autoclave and other blue collar workers were calculated using technicians and clerks as an internal reference group. The follow-up covered the period 1972–1999.
Significantly increased mortality rates were observed for all causes of death among the whole blue collar workforce (RR = 1.55; 95% CI = 1.03–2.35; 229 deaths), PVC baggers (1.72; 95% CI = 1.04–2.83; 49 deaths) and PVC compound workers (1.71; 95% CI = 1.09–2.67; 72 deaths). Liver cancer, including angiosarcoma, was increased among autoclave workers (9.57; 95% CI = 3.71–24.68; 7 deaths) and cardiovascular diseases among PVC baggers (2.25; 95% CI = 1.08–4.70; 12 deaths). Hemolymphopoietic system tumors, leukemias and lymphomas prevalently, were found only among exposed workers, with 4, 4 and 6 deaths observed among PVC baggers, PVC compound and other blue collar workers, respectively. An excess of lung cancer was found among PVC baggers.
This cohort analysis, based on internal comparison, confirmed previously reported specific risk excesses for liver tumors and liver cirrhosis among autoclave workers and for lung cancer among PVC baggers, and revealed PVC compound workers as a possible new at risk group for all causes, all tumors and for liver and lung tumors. In conclusion, RRs for all causes of death and all tumors were increased among all blue collar workers.