Occupational Cancer Research Centre Releases New Work-related Cancer Data

A new report by the Occupational Cancer Research Centre (OCRC), titled Occupational Cancer in Ontario, was published September 28, 2017. The report has identified the top four causes (the report refers to them as “big hitters”) of workplace-caused cancer. They are:

  • Solar radiation
  • Asbestos
  • Diesel-engine exhaust
  • Crystalline silica

It states that 1400 workers are diagnosed annually with non-melanoma skin cancer from exposure to the sun at work. Asbestos is to blame for 800 cancer cases annually. Diesel engine exhaust and silica are responsible for 170 cases and 200 cases each, respectively.

One of the primary objectives of the report is to demonstrate that the issue of workplace cancer is still quite large. The report also aims to promote prevention of work-related cancers. While it does not identify all workplace causes of cancer, it identifies the top four, suggesting that over 800 000 workers are exposed to one of the four “big hitters” annually.

Of those 800 000 workers, over half are exposed to solar radiation on the job. This number may come as a surprise to some, who associate sun-related cancers with recreational activities and beach vacations. On the contrary to that assumption, many workers complete jobs that require them to be outdoors for the entirety of their workday, every day, for years. They do not have a choice but to be in the sun, and protecting them is not the same as protecting the population from occasional, recreational, sun exposure.

The report includes recommendations for toxic exposure prevention, which include:

  • Policy, program, and procedure recommendations
  • Strengthening of occupational exposure limits
  • Exposure registries
  • Surveillance
  • Programs that aim to reduce the use of toxic substances in the workplace, such as the Toxics Reduction Program

The Toxics Reduction Program

The Toxics Reduction Program encourages facilities to reduce toxic substances. It represents a proactive approach to carcinogen reduction in the workplace. Through reporting and planning requirements, the Toxics Reduction Program aims to protect the health of people and the environment by:

  • Encouraging regulated facilities to reduce their use and creation of prescribed substances
  • Providing public access to information and data reported by facilities under the program

Statistics suggest that 800 000 workers are exposed to cancer-causing risks while at work. Until this number is drastically reduced or negated, programs such as Toxics Reduction are necessary to protect workers and ensure that they return home at the end of the workday.

Written by Jennifer Miller | Curriculum Development Coordinator


 

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