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Production of synthetic rubber involves exposure to several potentially harmful chemicals. The authors carried out a systematic review and meta-analysis of cohort studies of workers in the rubber-producing industry. Data were obtained from computerized literature searches of several databases from their inception through December 2003. The reference lists of identified articles were inspected for further relevant articles. The authors conducted random-effects meta-analyses of log standardized mortality ratios (SMRs)/standardized incidence ratios. Heterogeneity between study results was explored through subgroup analyses and meta-regression on cohort demographic factors and study quality indicators. The authors identified 36 published articles reporting information on 31 different cohort groups. The meta-SMR was 0.86 (95% confidence interval (CI): 0.82, 0.91) for all-cause mortality (28 cohorts) and 0.94 (95% CI: 0.89, 1.01) for all malignant neoplasms (27 cohorts). Heterogeneity was observed for these endpoints and for the majority of disease-specific outcomes. Statistically significant excesses were observed for diabetes (meta-SMR = 1.36, 95% CI: 1.17, 1.59) (five cohorts) and leukemia (meta-SMR = 1.21, 95% CI: 1.03, 1.43) (16 cohorts), the latter particularly for persons working exclusively in nontire manufacturing (meta-SMR = 1.70, 95% CI: 1.14, 2.54) (four cohorts). Excesses highlighted in previous narrative reviews were not substantiated. Interpretation of these results is complicated by substantial unexplainable heterogeneity; small excesses in specific mortality outcomes may have been disguised by the healthy worker effect. Copyright © 2006 by the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health All rights reserved.

Original publication




Journal article


American Journal of Epidemiology

Publication Date





405 - 420