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Radiation and Environmental Biophysics

, Volume 45, Issue 2, pp 125–134 | Cite as

A retrospective mortality study of workers exposed to radon in a Brazilian underground coal mine

  • Lene H. S. Veiga
  • Eliana C. S. Amaral
  • Didier Colin
  • Sérgio Koifman
Original Paper

Abstract

Recently a high radon concentration was detected in the underground coal mine of Figueira, located in the south of Brazil. This coal mine has been operating since 1942 without taking cognizance of the high radon environment. In order to assess possible radon-related health effects on the workers, a retrospective (1979–2002) mortality study of 2,856 Brazilian coal miners was conducted, with 2,024 underground workers potentially exposed to radon daughters. Standard mortality ratio (SMR) analysis hints at lower mortality from all causes for both underground (SMR = 88, 95% CI = 78–98) and surface workers (SMR = 96, 95% CI = 80–114). A high statistically significant SMR for lung cancer mortality was observed only in the underground miners (SMR = 173, 95% CI = 102–292), with a statistically significant trend reflecting the duration of underground work. High statistically significant SMRs were observed for pneumonia as a cause of death between both surface (SMR = 304, 95% CI = 126–730) and underground miners (SMR = 253, 95% CI = 140–457). Because mortality from smoking-related cancers other than lung cancer was not found elevated in underground workers and because diesel equipments were not used in this mine, it can be concluded that the enhanced lung cancer mortality observed for underground miners is associated with exposure to radon and radon daughters, rather than other confounding risk factors.

Keywords

Radon Radon Concentration Standardize Mortality Ratio Surface Worker Lung Cancer Mortality 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.

Notes

Acknowledgements

The authors gratefully acknowledge the mining industry director Dr. Nilo Schneider and all the staffs for their full cooperation, Dr. Jay Lubin from National Cancer Institute (NCI, USA) for all helpful discussions and suggestions about the study, Vicente Melo for his great collaboration in work field and cause of death search. The research assistants Débora O. Garcia, Lorena H. Fernandes and Vânia Lúcia da Conceição are acknowledged for their help in data organization and preparation. The present research was supported by the Pan American Health Organization under contract RC/RG-T/BRA/3194. The present research has been reviewed and approved by the Ethic Committee on Human Subjects Research, National School of Public Health, Oswaldo Cruz Foundation, which oversees the confidentiality of the obtained information on human subjects.

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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2006

Authors and Affiliations

  • Lene H. S. Veiga
    • 1
  • Eliana C. S. Amaral
    • 1
    • 4
  • Didier Colin
    • 2
  • Sérgio Koifman
    • 3
  1. 1.Instituto de Radioproteção e DosimetriaRio de JaneiroBrazil
  2. 2.International Agency for Research on CancerLyonFrance
  3. 3.Escola Nacional de Saúde Pública, Fundação Oswaldo CruzRio de JaneiroBrazil
  4. 4.International Atomic Energy AgencyViennaAustria

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