Today is #WorldCancerDay and we’re focusing on occupational cancer which affects more than 21,000 people working in construction each year. Occupational cancer can be caused by prolonged exposure to substances, or a mixture of substances, called ‘carcinogens’.
Carcinogens occur in many forms; they are solids, liquids, gases, vapours or dust and can be inhaled, swallowed or absorbed through the skin. Certain types of work can carry a higher risk depending on what people are exposed to in their individual jobs. The types of jobs include –
- Construction (increased exposure to asbestos, diesel, petrol, paint/solvents, sunlight and specks of dust)
- Manufacturing (exposure to fossil fuels, silica, sunlight and solvents)
- Service & Engineering (too much exposure to second-hand smoke, sunlight and fumes)
Legislation called The Control of Substances Hazardous to Health, or COSHH, requires employers to control substances hazardous to health, which includes exposure to carcinogens.
The UK Health and Safety Executive (HSE) commissioned the Imperial College London, the Health and Safety Laboratory, the Institute of Occupational Medicine, and the Institute of Environment and Health to produce updated and detailed research of occupational cancer in Great Britain.
The extensive research found cancer caused by exposure to carcinogens is often presented many years after the exposure took place, in most cases this is ten years. Therefore, it’s extremely hard to blame cancer growth on the workplace. However, in a large population it is possible to estimate the approximate number of cancer cases that could be due to work or, in other words, would not have occurred in the absence of the exposure in the workplace. In a nutshell, the research concluded that –
- 5% of cancer deaths are due to exposure, which equates to about 8,000 deaths each year.
- Exposure to carcinogens is estimated to account for 4% of cancer registrations (approximately 13,500 cases) due to exposure each year.
Source – hse.gov.uk