A nested case–control study found that the excess of leukemia, identified among the male members of the Health Watch cohort, was associated with benzene exposure. Exposure had been retrospectively estimated for each individual occupational history using an algorithm in a relational database. Benzene exposure measurements, supplied by Australian petroleum companies, were used to estimate exposure for specific tasks. The tasks carried out within each job, the products handled, and the technology used, were identified from structured interviews with contemporary colleagues. More than half of the subjects started work after 1965 and had an average exposure period of 20 years. Exposure was low; nearly 85% of the cumulative exposure estimates were at or below 10 ppm-years. Matched analyses showed that leukemia risk increased with increasing cumulative benzene exposures and with increasing exposure intensity of the highest-exposed job. Non-Hodgkin lymphoma and multiple myeloma were not associated with benzene exposure. A reanalysis reported here, showed that for the 7 leukemia case-sets with greater than 16 ppm-years cumulative exposure, the odds ratio was 51.9 (5.6–477) when compared to the 2 lowest exposed categories combined to form a new reference category. The addition of occasional high exposures, e.g. as a result of spillages, increased exposure for 25% of subjects but for most, the increase was less than 5% of total exposure. The addition of these exposures reduced the odds ratios. Cumulative exposures did not range as high as those in comparable studies; however, the recent nature of the cohort and local handling practices can explain these differences.
Field of Research
111705 Environmental and Occupational Health and Safety