Risk of asbestosis, mesothelioma, other lung disease or death among motor vehicle mechanics: a 45-year Danish cohort study


Introduction: The risk of asbestosis, malignant mesothelioma and lung cancer among motor vehicle mechanics is of concern because of potential exposure to chrysotile asbestos during brake, clutch and gasket repair and maintenance. Asbestos has also been used in insulation and exhaust systems.

Methods: We examined the long-term risk of incident mesothelioma, lung cancer, asbestosis and other lung diseases and mortality due to mesothelioma, lung cancer, asbestosis and other lung diseases in a nationwide cohort of all men registered as motor vehicle mechanics since 1970 in Denmark. This was compared with the corresponding risk in a cohort of male workers matched 10:1 by age and calendar year, with similar socioeconomic status (instrument makers, dairymen, upholsterers, glaziers, butchers, bakers, drivers, farmers and workers in the food industry, trade or public services). Results: Our study included 138 559 motor vehicle mechanics (median age 24 years; median follow-up 20 years (maximum 45 years)) and 1 385 590 comparison workers (median age 25 years; median follow-up 19 years (maximum 45 years)). Compared with other workers, vehicle mechanics had a lower risk of morbidity due to mesothelioma/pleural cancer (n=47 cases) (age-adjusted and calendar-year-adjusted HR=0.74 (95% CI 0.55 to 0.99)), a slightly increased risk of lung cancer (HR=1.09 (95% CI 1.03 to 1.14)), increased risk of asbestosis (HR=1.50 (95% CI 1.10 to 2.03)) and a chronic obstructive pulmonary disease risk close to unity (HR=1.02 (95% CI 0.99 to 1.05)). Corresponding HRs for mortality were 0.86 (95% CI 0.64 to 1.15) for mesothelioma/pleural cancer, 1.06 (95% CI 1.01 to 1.12) for lung cancer, 1.79 (95% CI 1.10 to 2.92) for asbestosis, 1.06 (95% CI 0.86 to 1.30) for other lung diseases caused by external agents and 1.00 (95% CI 0.98 to 1.01) for death due to all causes. Conclusions: We found that the risk of asbestosis was increased among vehicle mechanics. The risk of malignant mesothelioma/pleural cancers was not increased among vehicle mechanics.

Authors: Reimar Wernich Thomsen, Anders Hammerich Riis, Esben Meulengracht Flachs, David H Garabrant, Jens Peter Ellekilde Bonde, Henrik Toft Sørensen
; Full Source: Thorax 2021 Jul 8;thoraxjnl-2020-215041. doi: 10.1136/thoraxjnl-2020-215041.