Workers in the smelter industry who work in furnace houses is exposed to large amounts of ultrafine particles, but in this group of workers diseases of the lung have previously been the primary focus of research. There has not to the same extent been a concern of the risk for cardiovascular disease. We want to study this further, both by examining current employees in smelters, and by performing a study of mortality from cardiovascular disease in two cohorts of smelter workers.

65 employees in Norwegian smelters are examined in terms of early markers of cardiovascular disease risk, and a comparison is made between a working day and one day off. Their occupational exposures to dust are mapped by personal sampling of different particle size fractions.

Surveys of cancer and mortality have previously been conducted among workers in the Norwegian ferro-alloy industry and silicon carbide industry. These two cohorts are now followed up in terms of mortality from cardiovascular disease. Altogether, this involves around 15,000 people.

The project will provide new knowledge about the relationship between one of the main causes of death and disability in Norway, and occupational exposure to ultrafine particles. In addition to identifying areas with a possible disease preventive potential in an occupational setting, the project is highly relevant from a public health perspective related to cardiovascular effects of air pollution in cities. It is also relevant to the ongoing discussion about possible health effects from engineered nanoparticles.