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Medical Surveillance for Hematological Disorders Among Active and Retired Oil Refinery Workers

Tsai, Shan P. PhD; Bennett, John M. MD; Salesman, Charles N. MD; Ryan, Thomas E. MD; Gilstrap, Elizabeth L. MS; Ross, Charles E. DO, MS

Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine: May 1998 - Volume 40 - Issue 5 - p 475-480
Original Articles

Ten-year (1985-1995) results of an expanded medical surveillance program of 2475 active employees and retirees of an oil refinery and petrochemical complex in Illinois are presented. At the end of the program, 116 participants with persistent abnormalities of complete blood cell count had been referred for hematologic evaluation, and most were found to have benign conditions. Fifteen of the 116 were referred for bone marrow and cytogenetic studies. All of the referred active employees (seven) were found to have completely normal bone marrows with no evidence of any myelopathic process. Among the eight retirees, two had normal bone marrows, one was diagnosed with Philadelphia chromosome-positive chronic myelogenous leukemia, one declined to participate, and four were diagnosed to have myelodysplastic syndrome(MDS) of various subtypes. A total of eight cases of MDS were identified, including six cases among program participants and two cases among nonparticipants. The MDS standardized incidence ratio of 1.26 (95% confidence interval = 0.54-2.47) was not statistically significant, and there was virtually no increase of MDS in persons less than 80 years of age (4 observed and 3.8 expected). This MDS increase was entirely from program participants, probably because of intensive follow-up and diagnostic screening. Routine surveillance of complete blood cell count information did not identify any new cases of leukemia or MDS in active employees. These findings suggest that the utility of expanded medical surveillance program in this population is very limited.

From the Shell Oil Company, Houston, Tex. (Dr Tsai, Dr Salesman, Ms Gilstrap, Dr Ross); the Cancer Center, Medical Oncology Division, University of Rochester, Rochester, NY (Dr Bennett); and Hematology Oncology Consultants Inc., Alton, Ill. (Dr Ryan).

Address correspondence to: Shan P. Tsai, PhD, Shell Oil Company, Shell Medical Department, PO Box 2463, Houston, TX 77252-2463.

© Williams & Wilkins 1998. All Rights Reserved.