Young miners face increased cancer risk at work

Exposure to the sun, diesel fumes and tobacco smoke at work has increased the likelihood of almost half of the Western Australian workforce to be diagnosed with cancer, a study has found.

Research conducted by the WA Cancer Council released yesterday reveals 45 per cent of WA employees are exposed to at least one cancer causing substance in their place of work, a figure that is 5 per cent above the national average.

The higher results for WA are attributed to the larger number of people working outdoors and an increased amount of people working with diesel engines in the mining and construction sectors, the West reported

Heading up the research was cancer epidemiologist at the WA institute for Medical research, Lin Fritschi who said he was surprised by the results, especially as effects of exposure to these substances is widely well known.

"The workers affected are primarily blue-collar, and the main factor is sun exposure and that affects construction workers, who we have a lot of in WA, but also miners, farmers, gardeners and other people working outside" she said.

"It's also more male than female workers, and surprisingly younger males, which is probably because they're the ones doing the tradies' jobs."

The study looked only at workers with an obvious exposure to a cancer-causing substance at work.

Fritschi said the next phase will look at how this exposure is happening and its impacts on the risk of developing cancer.

She hopes the research will prompt employers and workers to consider how they can limit their risks.

Australian Mining has reported the risks of diesel fumes after the World Health Organization said diesel fumes cause cancer.

The organisation’s ruling said that diesel exhaust is as dangerous a public threat as second hand smoke.

While the risk of cancer is fairly small a science panel said raising the status of diesel fumes to carcinogen from a 'probable carcinogen' was an important move, one that may have major repercussions throughout the mining industry, where workers are constantly exposed to high levels of diesel fumes, particularly underground miners.

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