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Friday 28th October 2016

Chemical used in rubber, cancer link

20th January 2009

A UK study has found that a chemical employed to make rubber could "cause cancer in workers regularly exposed to it".


The researchers, from the University of Birmingham, looked at the health records of people working at a factory situated close to Wrexham.

The team were particularly interested to find out if staff had been exposed to the chemical called 2-mercaptobenzothiazole, (MBT), as another study had identified it as possibly being carcinogenic.

They discovered that people who worked at the Flexsys plant who had been exposed to the chemical MBT had double the danger of dying from large intestine and bladder cancer.

The study will be published in Occupational and Environmental Medicine, a monthly publication of the British Medical Journal.

They examined staff death rates (for people who had been employed at the plant for at least half a year) between 1955-1984, in addition to cancer cases between 1971-2005.

They found that 363 of the 2,160 employees had held a position where they had exposure to MBT.

Many staff had been in contact with MBT during the 1930s, 1940s, and 1950s. By 2005, 222 staff had died, and 136 were found who were alive.

In addition to having double the risk of death from bladder and intestinal cancer, they had quadruple the danger of bone marrow cancer.

The researchers said more work should be carried out to investigate the possible link.

They warned: "In the meantime, perhaps MBT should be handled with increased care as it may be a human carcinogen."

In a statement, the company 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."


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