Morbidity in Former Sawmill Workers Exposed to Pentachlorophenol (PCP): A Cross-Sectional Study in New Zealand

McLean, D; Eng, A; Dryson, E; Walls, C; Harding, E; Wang, KC; Cheng, S; Mannetje, A; Ellison-Loschmann, L; Slater, T; Shoemack, P; Pearce, N; (2009) Morbidity in Former Sawmill Workers Exposed to Pentachlorophenol (PCP): A Cross-Sectional Study in New Zealand. American journal of industrial medicine, 52 (4). pp. 271-281. ISSN 0271-3586 DOI:

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Background From 1950 to 1990 pentachlorophenol (PCP) was used widely, in the New Zealand sawmill industry, and persistent claims of long-term health effects have been made. Methods We surveyed surviving members of a cohort enumerated to study mortality in sawmill workers employed from 1970 to 1990. Estimates of historical exposure were based on job titles held, using the results of a PCP biomonitoring survey conducted in the 1980s. The survey involved interviews and clinical examinations, with interviewers and examiners blinded to exposure status. Results Of the 293 participants 177 had not been exposed, and of the 116 exposed all but 10% had low or short-term PCP exposure. Nevertheless, a number of significant associations between PCP exposure and the prevalence of various symptoms were observed including associations between: (i) exposure levels and self-reported tuberculosis, pleurisy or pneumonia (P<0.01) and a deficit in cranial nerve function (P = 0.04); (ii) duration of employment and thyroid disorders (P = 0.04), and neuropsychological symptoms including often going back to check things (P = 0.04), low libido (P = 0.02) and heart palpitations (P = 0.02), and a strong dose-response trend for frequent mood changes without cause (P<0.01): and (iii) cumulative exposure and frequent mood changes without cause (P = 0.02), low libido (P = 0.04), and in the overall number of neuropsychological symptoms reported (P = 0.03). Conclusions PCP exposure was associated with a number of physical and neuropsychological health effects that persisted long after exposure had ceased. Am. J. Ind. Med. 52:271-281, 2009. (C) 2009 Wiley-Liss, Inc.

Item Type: Article
Keywords: Adult, Aged, Cross-Sectional Studies, Female, Humans, Interviews as Topic, Logistic Models, Male, Middle Aged, New Zealand, epidemiology, Occupational Diseases, epidemiology, Occupational Exposure, adverse effects, Pentachlorophenol, poisoning
Faculty and Department: Faculty of Epidemiology and Population Health > Dept of Medical Statistics
Faculty of Epidemiology and Population Health > Dept of Non-Communicable Disease Epidemiology
Research Centre: Centre for Global Non-Communicable Diseases (NCDs)
PubMed ID: 19152355
Web of Science ID: 264424600001


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