Using the proportionate mortality ratio method, the cause specific mortality among jewelry workers in Rhode Island during the period 1968 to 1978 was determined from death certificates and compared to that of all other decedents in Rhode Island. The study population consisted of 1334 female and 1807 male jewelry worker decedents with 44,720 and 49,788 decedents in the female and male comparison groups, respectively. The decedent jewelry workers were classified into occupational categories. Individuals not directly involved in jewelry manufacture were excluded from the study. The largest specific occupational categories were filers, polishers, sanders, buffers, jewelers, and tool and die makers. Among female workers, the observed numbers of deaths from stomach cancer were significantly elevated, and the deaths from lung cancer and brain neoplasms were almost statistically significant. Among male workers a statistically significant increase was observed for liver cancer, and an almost significant increase for cancer of the large intestine. The authors conclude that the main limitation of the study was the inability to reliably classify decedent jewelry workers with respect to specific jobs or exposure. They consider the study an exploratory investigation that may indicate possible health problems in the jewelry industry.
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