Environ Res 2019 Oct 5;177:108625. Epub 2019 Aug 5.
Department of Environmental Health, Rollins School of Public Health at Emory University, Atlanta, GA, USA.
Background: A cohort of male lead-exposed workers with past blood lead levels, previously followed for mortality over 12 years, has now been followed for an additional 10 years. This has doubled the number of deaths and allowed for examination of mortality outcomes across a wide range of blood lead levels.
Objective: Evaluate association between lead exposure and 16 causes of death.
Methods: The cohort included male workers from 11 U.S. states enrolled in a U.S. lead surveillance program. Maximum blood lead level for each worker was abstracted from surveillance records. Mortality was assessed using the National Death Index. We conducted internal analyses via Cox regression adjusting for age, calendar time, and race. External analyses compared cohort mortality rates with those of the U.S.
Population: Blood lead categories were defined as 0-<5, 5-<25, 25-<40, and ≥40 μg/dL with the two lower categories combined for outcomes with <5 deaths in the 0-<5 group.
Results: The cohort (n = 58,368) was followed for a median of 19 years and experienced 6,527 deaths. Average maximum blood lead was 25.9 μg/dL and mean year of first blood lead test was 1997. Strong associations were found between blood lead level with larynx and lung cancer mortality. For these outcomes, hazard ratios and 95% confidence intervals across blood lead categories were 1.0 (ref), 1.1 (0.4-3.2), 3.4 (1.3-9.1) for larynx and 1.0 (ref), 1.6 (1.0-2.5), 2.0 (1.3-3.1), 2.9 (1.9-4.5) for lung (trend p-values = 0.08 and < 0.01, respectively). Positive significant trends were also seen for mortality from brain cancer, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, ischemic heart disease, and non-hodgkin's lymphoma. Findings suggested associations with chronic renal disease and rectal cancer mortality, although trends were not statistically significant.
Conclusions: The additional follow up confirmed previous relationships between lead and mortality and also detected new associations.