Mortality in employees at a New Zealand agrochemical manufacturing site

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Previous studies at the Dow AgroSciences (Formerly Ivon Watkins-Dow) plant in New Plymouth, New Zealand, had raised concerns about the cancer risk in a subset of workers at the site with potential exposure to 2,3,7,8-tetrachlorodibenzo-p-dioxin. As the plant had been involved in the synthesis and formulation of a wide range of agrochemicals and their feedstocks, we examined the mortality risk for all workers at the site.


To quantify the mortality hazards arising from employment at the Dow AgroSciences agrochemical production site in New Plymouth, New Zealand.


Workers employed between 1 January 1969 and 1 October 2003 were followed up to the end of 2004. Standardized mortality ratios (SMRs) were calculated using national mortality rates by employment duration, sex, period of hire and latency.


A total of 1754 employees were followed during the study period and 247 deaths were observed. The all causes and all cancers SMRs were 0.97 (95% CI 0.85–1.10) and 1.01 (95% CI 0.80–1.27), respectively. Mortality due to all causes was higher for short-term workers (SMR 1.23, 95% CI 0.91–1.62) than long-term workers (SMR 0.92, 95% CI 0.80–1.06) and women had lower death rates than men. Analyses by latency and period of hire did not show any patterns consistent with an adverse impact of occupational exposures.


The mortality experience of workers at the site was similar to the rest of New Zealand.

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