Australian researchers, Dr Tim Driscoll, senior lecturer at the University's School of Public Health and Dr Lin Fritschi from Queensland Cancer, found in a 2006 study that one in ten male workers and one in 50 female workers developed cancer every year due to workplace exposure to carcinogens. See also article in the Sydney Morning Herald, October 2007: Workplace cancer a hidden toll
|Cancer||Examples of principal carcinogenic occupational exposures|
Asbestos; silica; nickel; indoor radon; diesel fumes; wood dust; environmental tobacco smoke (ETS) at the workplace; production and refining of: arsenic, beryllium, cadmium, aluminium and chromium; mining of uranium; copper smelting; iron and steel founding; vineyard workers; roofers; asphalt workers; painters; welders (see this article on the verywell website: Occupation as a cause of lung cancer)
Diesel fumes; 2-naphtylamine; benzidine; 4-aminobipheyl; manufacturing of: magenta, auramine, p-chloro-o-toluidine, pigment chromate, and dyes; sythetic latex production; tyre curing; calendar operatives; reclaim; cable makers; gas-retort workers; painters
External ionizing radiation; benzene; ethylene oxide; rubber industry; boot and shoe manufacturing and repair
|Laryngeal cancer||Sulfuric acid; mineral oils and asbestos; pickling operations|
Intensive solar radiation; coal-tar pitches; coal tar; shale oils; arsenic; mineral oils; polycyclic-aromatic hydrocarbons (PAH); production of coke; vineyard workers; fishermen
|Sinonasal and nasopharyngeal cancer||
Wood dust; nickel compounds; hexavalent chromium; boot and shoe manufacturing and repair; manufacturing of isopopanol using strong acid process; furniture and cabinet making; carpenters; formaldehyde
Vinyl chloride; occupational infections with hepatitis B and C; health care workers
Group 1: Chemicals, groups of chemicals, industries or industrial processes for which there is sufficient evidence of carcinogenicity in humans.
Group 2A: Probably carcinogenic to humans.
Group 2B: Possibly carcinogenic to humans.
Group 3: Not classifiable as to its carcinogenicity in to humans.
Group 4: Probably not carcinogenic to humans.
In October 2007 scientists met at IARC to consider the carcinogenicity of painting, shiftwork and firefighting. Their conclusions, which have now been reflected in the IARC classifications:
Painting: "there is sufficient evidence in humans that occupational exposure as a painter causes cancers of the lung and urinary bladder." In addition, there is also limited evidence that painting is associated with childhood leukaemia. Overall, occupational exposure as a painter is carcinogenic to humans - Group 1
Shiftwork: on the basis of "limited evidence in humans for the carcinogenicity of shiftwork that involves nightwork, and sufficient evidence in experimental animals for the carcinogencity of light during the daily dark period (night)", shift-work that involves circadian disruption is probably carcinogenic to humans - Group 2A Note that there is increasing evidence that this is indeed the case.
- Firefighting: on the basis of "limited evidence of carcinogenicity in humans", occupational exposure as a firefighter is possibly carcinogenic to humans - Group 2B
June 2012: IARC declared Diesel fumes a Group 1 carcinogen.
Outdoor air pollution - on October 17, 2013 IARC announced the classification of outdoor air pollution as a human carcinogen (Group 1). Although the composition of air pollution and exposure levels vary widely from place to place, IARC says its assessment is applicable worldwide and notes that exposures in rapidly industrializing countries with large populations have increased significantly in recent years. According to the IARC review of the latest scientific studies, exposure to air pollution increases the risk for lung cancer and for bladder cancer. IARC also evaluated particulate matter, a major component of air pollution, and concluded that it too is a human carcinogen.
IARC notes that in 2010 – the most recent annual data available – approximately 223,000 deaths worldwide resulted from lung cancer prompted by air pollution. Meanwhile air pollution-related respiratory and cardiovascular diseases continue to decrease life expectancy worldwide.
This is the first time outdoor air pollution has been classified as a cause of cancer.
IARC Press Release [pdf]
Over 40% of Australian workers exposed to carcinogens
In late 2013, Australian researchers from the universities of WA, Monash and Sydney, published the results of their Australian Work Exposures Study (AWES), which investigated the prevalence of occupational exposure to carcinogens. A random sample of men and women (between 18 and 65 yrs old), in paid employment, were invited to participate in a telephone interview collecting information about their current job and various demographic factors. Responses were obtained from 5023 workers.
Of these, 1879 respondents (37.6%) were assessed as being exposed to at least one occupational carcinogen in their current job. Extrapolation of these figures to the Australian working population suggested 3.6 million (40.3%) current workers could be exposed to carcinogens in their workplace. Exposure prevalence was highest among farmers, drivers, miners and transport workers, as well as men and those residing in regional areas.
Renee N Carey, Timothy R Driscoll, Susan Peters, Deborah C Glass, Alison Reid, Geza Benke, Lin Fritschi Estimated prevalence of exposure to occupational carcinogens in Australia (2011–2012) [abstract] Occup Environ Med doi:10.1136/oemed-2013-101651
Workers with cancer
The list of Scheduled Carcinogens (referred to under Chapter 4.2 of the Occupational Health and Safety Regulations (2007) are Schedules 1 & 2 of the National Model Regulations for the Control of Scheduled Carcinogenic Substances. These have now been replaced by the Model Work Health Safety Regulations (2011). WorkSafe Victoria has now created a webpage listing the substances in the two schedules referred to under the Victorian regulations.
Information in the Hazard section and other information on this site
UK's Trade Union Congress (TUC) Hazards Occupational Cancer pages with information and resources
- The European Trade Union Institute has a section on Occupational Cancers. The Health and Safety Department of the European Trade Union Institute - Research, Education, Health and Safety aims at promoting high standards of health and safety at the workplace throughout Europe.
- UNIFOR (a large Canadian manufacturing union): Prevent Cancer Campaign with resources including a Cancer Campaign book and a Personal Chemical Exposure Journal.
- The UK's Trade Union Congress (TUC) Occupational cancer guide [pdf]
- Work Cancer Hazards - a continually-updated, annotated bibliography of occupational cancer research produced by Hazards magazine, the Alliance for Cancer Prevention and the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC).
- The UK's HSE webpage on Occupational Cancer.
- The International Agency for Research on Cancer (Note that there are often difficulties getting on to this site) Includes a database on cancer mortality based on WHO statistics, and other Resources.
- CAREX International Information on Occupational Exposure to Carcinogens - this is an international database;
The Cancer Prevention and Education Society - a UK site with a wealth of information
- From the European Trade Union Institute: Carcinogens that should be subject to binding limits on workers' exposure,[pdf] ETUI report no.136, March 2016.
From the Silent Spring Institute - a US organisation researching women's health - Five-fold variation in breast cancer incidence rates across the globe tells us that living in developed areas increases risk
Last updated May 2020
Important Chemicals Information
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