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Mortality Among Rocketdyne Workers Who Tested Rocket Engines, 1948–1999

Boice, John D. Jr ScD; Marano, Donald E. PE, CIH; Cohen, Sarah S. MS; Mumma, Michael T. MS; Blot, William J. PhD; Brill, A Bertrand MD; Fryzek, Jon P. PhD; Henderson, Brian E. MD; McLaughlin, Joseph K. PhD

Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine: October 2006 - Volume 48 - Issue 10 - p 1070-1092
doi: 10.1097/01.jom.0000240661.33413.b5
Original Articles

Objective: The objective of this study was to evaluate potential health risks associated with testing rocket engines.

Methods: 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.

Results: 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.

Conclusion: 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.

From the International Epidemiology Institute (Dr Boice, Ms Cohen, Mr Mumma, Dr Blot, Dr Fryzek, Dr McLaughlin), Rockville, Maryland; the Department of Medicine and Vanderbilt-Ingram Cancer Center (Dr Boice, Dr Blot, Dr Brill, Dr Fryzek, Dr McLaughlin), Nashville, Tennessee; IHI Environmental (Mr Marano), Salt Lake City, Utah; and the University of Southern California (Dr Henderson), Los Angeles, California.

The study was supported in part by a competitive research contract from The Boeing Company and was conducted with cooperation from the UAW (United Automobile, Aerospace and Agricultural Implement Workers of America).

The results presented here represent the conclusions and opinions solely of the authors. Its publication does not imply endorsement by The Boeing Company, the UAW, or any of the acknowledged agencies.

Address correspondence to: John D. Boice, Jr., ScD, International Epidemiology Institute, 1455 Research Blvd., Suite 550, Rockville, MD 20850; E-mail:

©2006The American College of Occupational and Environmental Medicine