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Chemical used in rubber products may cause cancer

20th January 2009

A chemical commonly used in the manufacture of rubber products may cause cancer in workers regularly exposed to it.

Published in Occupational and Environmental Medicine today, a report studied the higher than expected rates of certain cancers and deaths from the disease, among men working at a rubber chemicals plant in North Wales.

The research looked at the death rates of employees who had worked at the factory for at least six months between 1955 and 1984 and diagnoses of cancer between 1971 and 2005.

In particular, the study looked for exposure to a chemical called 2-mercaptobenzothiazole (MBT) which has been implicated in previous research as a possible cancer causing agent (carcinogen).

Among the 2,160 plant employees analysed, 336 had worked in a job that would have exposed them to MBT.

Based on national statistics for expected death rates, the workers exposed to the chemical were found to be twice as likely to die of gut and bladder cancers.

The authors of today’s report conclude by calling for further research into other groups exposed to MBT to see if similar patterns emerge.

“In the meantime, perhaps MBT should be handled with increased care as it may be a human carcinogen,” they add.

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