Increased Suicide Risk among Workers following Toxic Metal Exposure at the Paducah Gaseous Diffusion Plant From 1952 to 2003: A Cohort Study

LW Figgs, H Holsinger, SJ Freitas, GM Brion, RW Hornung, CH Rice, D Tollerud


Background: Suicide is a problem worldwide and occupation is an important risk factor. In the last decade, 55 200 deaths in the US were attributed to occupational risk factors.

Objective: To determine if toxic metal exposure was associated with suicide risk among Paducah gaseous diffusion plant (PGDP) workers.

Methods: We assembled a cohort of 6820 nuclear industry workers employed from 1952 to 2003. A job-specific exposure matrix (JEM) was used to determine metal exposure likelihood. Uranium exposure was also assessed by urinalysis. All suicide/self-injury International Classification for Disease (ICD) codes were used to identify suicides. Standardized mortality ratios (SMR), odds ratios (OR), and hazard ratios (HR) were used to estimate suicide risk.

Results: PGDP suicide victims typically were younger white men. Within exposure likelihood categories, several suicide SMRs were typically elevated for several metals. Only beryllium exposure likelihood was associated with an increased HR. Uranium urine concentration was associated with an elevated suicide risk after stratification by urinalysis frequency.

Conclusion: Suicide risk is associated with uranium exposure.


Toxic; environmental toxic substances; JEM; Exposure assessment; Uranium; Suicide; Atomic energy; Gaseous diffusion; Epidemiology; Proportional hazard

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 pISSN: 2008-6520
 eISSN: 2008-6814

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