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Original Research: ENVIRONMENTAL HEALTH |

Change in Prevalence of Asbestos-Related Disease Among Sheet Metal Workers 1986 to 2004*

Laura S. Welch, MD; Elizabeth Haile, MS; John Dement, PhD; David Michaels, PhD, MPH
Author and Funding Information

*From the Center to Protect Workers Rights (Dr. Welch and Ms. Haile), Silver Spring, MD; Duke University (Dr. Dement), Durham, NC; and George Washington University (Dr. Michaels), Washington, DC.

Correspondence to: Laura S. Welch, MD, Center to Protect Workers Rights, 8484 Georgia Ave, Silver Spring, MD 20910; e-mail: lwelch@cpwr.com



Chest. 2007;131(3):863-869. doi:10.1378/chest.06-1155
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In 1985, the Sheet Metal Workers International Association and the Sheet Metal and Air Conditioning National Association formed The Sheet Metal Occupational Health Institute Trust to examine the health hazards of the sheet metal industry in the United States and Canada. Between 1986 and 2004, 18,211 individuals were examined. The mean age of this cohort was 57.9 years, and the participants had worked for a mean (± SD) duration of 32.9 ± 6 years in the sheet metal trade. Twenty-three percent of participants were current smokers, 49% were former smokers, and 28% were never-smokers. A total of 9.6% of participants (1,745 participants) had findings that were consistent with parenchymal disease (International Labor Organization [ILO] score, ≥ 1/0); 60% of those with an ILO score ≥ 1/0 were classified as 1/0, 34% as 1/1 to 1/2, and 6% as ≥ 2/1. A total of 21% of participants (3,827 participants) had pleural scarring. There was a lower prevalence of nonmalignant asbestos-related disease among those who began to work after 1970, when compared to workers who began to work before 1949; those who began to work between 1950 and 1969 had a prevalence between the other two groups. The strongest predictor of both parenchymal and pleural disease on a chest radiograph was the calendar year in which the worker began sheet metal work; work in a shipyard was also an important risk. The results of this study suggest that the efforts to reduce asbestos exposure in the 1980s through strengthened Occupational Safety and Health Administration regulation have had a positive public health impact.

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