Informa Markets

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January 23, 2009

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Cancer ‘link’ to chemical used in rubber production

A chemical used to manufacture rubber may cause cancer in workers who are regularly exposed to it, according to research carried out by the University of Birmingham.

Researchers based their findings on workers exposed to a chemical called 2-mercaptobenzothianzole (MBT) at a rubber and chemicals factory in Wrexham. The study showed that employees at the Flexsys plant who had come into contact with MBT were twice as likely to die from large-intestine and bladder cancers.

They looked at death rates of employees, who had worked at the plant for at least six months, between 1955 and 1984, and were diagnosed with cancer between 1971 and 2005.

The research, which will be published in Occupational and Environmental Medicine, a monthly publication by the British Medical Journal Group, revealed that 363 of the 2160 employees were exposed to MBT, and 222 of these workers later died.

When these figures are compared with national statistics for death rates, the results show that the workers are twice as likely to be diagnosed with bladder cancer, and four times as likely to be diagnosed with bone marrow cancer.

In a statement, Flexsys said: “The health and welfare of our employees is of primary importance to the company, and as such we are reviewing the study in order to identify what, if any, actions should be taken in terms of further investigation.

“For this product, and all of the products we develop, manufacture, and market, the company employs great care to ensure that they do not pose undue risks to human health or the environment during all stages of their life-cycles.”

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