Long-term mortality study of oil refinery workers. IV. Exposure to the lubricating-dewaxing process1

C. P. Wen, Shan P. Tsai, Nancy S. Weiss, Roy L. Gibson, William A. McClellan, Otto Wong

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17 Scopus citations


A retrospective cohort mortality study of 1, 008 male oil refinery workers who ever worked on the lubricating-dewaxing process of the lube oil department and who have been followed for a period of 43 years is presented. These workers were exposed to a number of solvents, primarily methyl ethyl ketone [(MEK) CAS: 78-93-3] and toluene (CAS: 108-88-3), but at levels far below the current Occupational Safety and Health Administration's standard. The standardized mortality ratio (SMR) for all causes (0.70) and the SMR for cancer (0.86) are much lower than unity when they are compared to the mortality experience of the U.S. population. Also observed in this study were 8 prostate cancer deaths (4.4 expected) with an SMR of 1.82, which was not statistically significant (P =.16). Seven of these 8 prostate cancer deaths occurred among nonwhite males, who showed an SMR of 2.47 (P =.053). However, only 1 prostate cancer death was seen among workers specifically assigned to the MEK units. The remaining deaths occurred among maintenance workers who had lube oil department-wide assignments. This cancer risk increased with increasing duration of employment in the lube oil department. A latency of 20 years or more was also observed for these prostate cancer deaths. In this study the processing of lubricating oils was found to be at least as important as the MEK solvents, and department-wide maintenance workers were as much at risk as the MEK unit workers. In view of this finding and findings obtained by others, it seems prudent to continue to study lubricating-dewaxing process workers, including the medical monitoring of all such workers for prostate cancer.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)11-18
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of the National Cancer Institute
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 1 1985
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cancer Research
  • Oncology


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