Millions of Australian Workers at Risk of Cancer

By @reissasu on

About 3.6 million Australian workers are most likely exposed to carcinogens or cancer-causing agents in mining, agriculture and transport industries. Australian researchers have found that 40 per cent of workers are at risk of cancer with 37 per cent of men exposed to higher risk than 7.9 per cent of women.  

Unlike cancer risks caused by poor diet and alcohol, workers have no control on the amount of carcinogen exposure in the workplace. According to the study, sun exposure, diesel engine exhaust, environmental tobacco smoke and fumes from the solvent benzene were identified as the top cancer risks in the workplace.

The results of the study shocked Professor Lin Fritschi from the University of Western Australia and the Harry Perkins Institute of Medical Research in Perth. Professor Fritschi explained the figures seem to be higher than before since workers from small and medium enterprises, as well as the self-employed, were included in the study.

Ms Fritschi stated in a press release that the only data used came from big companies supported by staff from the Occupational Health and Safety to conduct surveys.

Cancer-causing agents like sun exposure mostly affected painters, farmers and metal workers. Those that were at risk for cancer from exposure to diesel engine exhaust include farmers, miners and heavy vehicle drivers.

Environmental tobacco smoke is a cancer threat to hospitality workers, painters and plumbers. Ms Fritschi remarked Australia has legislation in place to stop smoking in the workplace but it has not been imposed at the moment.

The study is a collaboration of the Harry Perkins Institute of Medical Research and the University of Western Australia including Sydney and Monash Universities. The data was taken from a random sample of 5,023 Australian workers with ages 18 to 65 years old. The random respondents were asked about their tasks while on the job.  

The findings are published in the journal Occupational Environmental Medicine. 

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