Incidence of chronic bronchitis has been studied in a cohort of 12,210 workers first employed at one of the main plants of the Mayak nuclear facility during 1948–1958 and followed up to 31 December 2005. Information on external gamma doses is available for virtually all of these workers; in contrast, plutonium body burden was measured only for 30% of workers. During the follow-up period in the study cohort 1,175 incident cases of chronic bronchitis were verified. The analyses of nonradiation factors revealed that the underlying risk of chronic bronchitis incidence increased with increasing attained age and was higher among smokers compared with never-smokers as would be expected. The most interesting finding in relationship to nonradiation factors was a sharp increase in the baseline chronic bronchitis risk before 1960. The cause of this is not clear but a number of factors may play a role. Based on the follow-up data after 1960, the analysis showed a statistically significant linear dose response relationship with cumulative external gamma-ray dose (ERR/Gy = 0.14, 95% CI 0.01, 0.32). Based on the same subset but with an additional restriction to members with cumulative internal lung dose below 1 Gy, a statistically significant linear dose response relationship with internal alpha-radiation lung dose from incorporated plutonium was found (ERR/Gy = 2.70, 95% CI 1.20, 4.87). In both cases, adjustment was made for nonradiation factors, including smoking and either internal or external dose as appropriate. At present there are no similar incidence studies with which to compare results. However, the most recent data from the atomic bomb survivor cohort (the Life Span Study) showed statistically significant excess mortality risk for respiratory diseases of 22% per Gy and this value is within the confidence bounds of the point estimate of the risk from this study in relation to external dose.

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