Wednesday, 20 June 2012

Government must act over new workplace cancer study

TUC General Secretary Brendan Barber
The TUC has called for urgent action from the government to deal with the huge death toll from work-related cancer as research is published today (Wednesday) in the British Journal of Cancer Supplement into the incidence of cancers caused by work.

TUC General Secretary Brendan Barber said: "The researchers have found that around 13,600 new cancer cases every year are caused by risk factors related to work. At the same time the research acknowledges that this is likely to be a conservative number and the real toll could be even higher.
"Of these thousands of workers, over 8,000 will be killed by the cancer they contract. This is a huge number, made all the more tragic by the knowledge that these deaths are preventable.
"If more action had been taken in the past to protect workers from known carcinogens such as asbestos, silica, diesel and mineral oils then many of the workers who will die this year from work-related cancers could have been saved.
"We must not let this terrible legacy continue. We should be making sure that carcinogens are removed from the workplace so that those working today will not develop cancers 20 or 30 years from now.
"No-one who reads this research can doubt that there is an urgent need for stronger safety regulation in the workplace, and for greater enforcement action against employers who take risks with their employees' health.
"Unfortunately what we have seen from the government has been a reduction in both regulation and enforcement. It is high time ministers stopped pursuing an ideological war against health and safety and instead started protecting those whose lives are being put at risk through no fault of their own."

Further information
- The study was published in the British Journal of Cancer Supplement and was funded by the Health and Safety Executive. It found that every year around 8,000 cancer deaths in Britain each year are linked to occupations which equates to around five per cent of all cancer deaths in Britain.
- Researchers used a list of work-related cancer causing substances identified by the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) to calculate the impact of work on cancer cases and deaths and discovered around 13,600 new cancer cases are caused by risk factors related to work each year.
- After asbestos, the main work-related risk factors were night shift-work - linked to around 1,960 female breast cancer cases, mineral oil from metal and printing industries - linked to around 1730 cases of bladder, lung and non-melanoma skin cancers, sun exposure - linked to around 1540 skin cancer cases, silica exposure - linked to 910 cancer cases and diesel engine exhaust - linked to 800 cases.

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