An industry-wide campaign to cut the number of deaths from occupational cancer has been launched by the Institution of Occupational Safety and Health (IOSH).
IOSH highlights that even by conservative estimates, some 8,000 people die from cancer and around 14,000 contract the disease each year in the UK because of exposure to a work-related carcinogen, such as diesel exhaust fumes, silica dust or asbestos fibres. Worldwide, occupational cancer claims the lives of more than 666,000 a year – one death every 47 seconds.
The figures far outstrip those for fatal incidents in the workplace, but the invisibility of carcinogens, the long latency of their effects and a lack of knowledge continue to produce this staggeringly high number of preventable deaths and cancer registrations.
The campaign, which is backed by business leaders, academics and charity Macmillan Cancer Support, calls for a collaboration of Government and employers “to beat occupational cancer”.
It also seeks a national database of work-related carcinogen exposure, more research into the potential cancer risks of new technologies, a greater focus on work cancer in medical courses and awareness training for apprentices.
“There’s no excuse for young people entering into work today and being exposed to carcinogens,” commented Dr Lesley Rushton, of Imperial College London and lead researcher behind the most recent study into the UK’s work cancer burden. “And we need innovative ways to get key messages to the self-employed and those working in smaller businesses.”
“If we don’t do something now, we are going to have thousands of occupational cancers annually, but if we take action now we can beat occupational cancer,” she added.
“We know there are problems with exhaust fumes and shift work, sun exposure is a problem. We know what the problems are, and we know how to reduce the risks. Now, we just need action,” she concluded.
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