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Cohort Mortality Study of Philadelphia Firefighters


Baris, Dalsu; Garrity, Thomas J.; Telles, Joel Leon; Heineman, Ellen F.; Olshan, Andrew F.; & Zahm, Sheila Hoar (2001). Cohort Mortality Study of Philadelphia Firefighters. American Journal of Industrial Medicine, 39(5), 463-476.


Background: Fire fighters are exposed to a wide variety of toxic chemicals. Previous studies have reported excess risk of some cancers but have been limited by small numbers or little information on employment characteristics.
Methods: We conducted a retrospective cohort mortality study among 7,789 Philadelphia firefighters employed between 1925 and 1986. For each cause of death, the standardized mortality ratios (SMRs) and 95% confidence intervals were estimated. We also compared mortality among groups of firefighters defined by the estimated number of career runs and potential for diesel exposure.
Results: In comparison with U.S. white men, the firefighters had similar mortality from all causes of death combined (SMR = 0.96) and all cancers (SMR = 1.10). There were statistically significant deficits of deaths from nervous system diseases (SMR = 0.47), cerebrovascular diseases (SMR = 0.83), respiratory diseases (SMR = 0.67), genitourinary diseases (SMR = 0.54), all accidents (SMR = 0.72), and suicide (SMR = 0.66). Statistically significant excess risks were observed for colon cancer (SMR = 1.51) and ischemic heart disease (SMR = 1.09). The risks of mortality from colon cancer (SMR = 1.68), kidney cancer (SMR = 2.20), non-Hodgkin's lymphoma (SMR = 1.72), multiple myeloma (SMR = 2.31), and benign neoplasms (SMR = 2.54) were increased among firefighters with at least 20 years of service.
Conclusions: Our study found no significant increase in overall mortality among Philadelphia firefighters. However, we observed increased mortality for cancers of the colon and kidney, non-Hodgkin's lymphoma and multiple myeloma. There was insufficient follow-up since the introduction of diesel equipment to adequately assess risk.


Reference Type

Journal Article

Year Published


Journal Title

American Journal of Industrial Medicine


Baris, Dalsu
Garrity, Thomas J.
Telles, Joel Leon
Heineman, Ellen F.
Olshan, Andrew F.
Zahm, Sheila Hoar