The objective of this study was to evaluate potential health risks associated with testing rocket engines.
A retrospective cohort mortality study was conducted of 8372 Rocketdyne workers employed 1948 to 1999 at the Santa Susana Field Laboratory (SSFL). Standardized mortality ratios (SMRs) and 95% confidence intervals (CIs) were calculated for all workers, including those employed at specific test areas where particular fuels, solvents, and chemicals were used. Dose–response trends were evaluated using Cox proportional hazards models.
SMRs for all cancers were close to population expectations among SSFL workers overall (SMR = 0.89; CI = 0.82–0.96) and test stand mechanics in particular (n = 1651; SMR = 1.00; CI = 0.86–1.16), including those likely exposed to hydrazines (n = 315; SMR = 1.09; CI = 0.75–1.52) or trichloroethylene (TCE) (n = 1111; SMR = 1.00; CI = 0.83–1.19). Nonsignificant associations were seen between kidney cancer and TCE, lung cancer and hydrazines, and stomach cancer and years worked as a test stand mechanic. No trends over exposure categories were statistically significant.
Work at the SSFL rocket engine test facility or as a test stand mechanic was not associated with a significant increase in cancer mortality overall or for any specific cancer.