Research/studies Worker health and wellness Workplace exposures Cancer Chemical

Study of former IBM plant shows no conclusive link between exposures and cancer

Washington – Results of a NIOSH study of workers at a former IBM plant could not establish a definitive link between chemical exposures and cancer risk.

The study was requested by the New York State Department of Health, members of Congress and stakeholders after concerns were raised about cancer rates and congenital heart defects among residents near the facility in Endicott, NY, which experienced a chemical spill in 1979.

Researchers examined records of 34,494 people who worked at the plant from 1969 to 2001. Although the overall incidence of cancer deaths among workers was lower than the general population, deaths from rectal, testicular and plural cancer; non-Hodgkin lymphoma; and mesothelioma were found to be higher than expected. However, researchers could not determine if workplace exposures increased the risk of cancer because of data limitations and the relatively young age of the workers. It is possible that health problems will emerge as workers get older, researchers said.

NIOSH intends to host a public meeting about the study results on Jan. 23 in Endicott. Another part of the study is still underway, with results expected in late 2014.

The study was published online Dec. 24 in the American Journal of Industrial Medicine.