Many of us might be aware that some foods we eat or lifestyle choices we make can increase the risk of developing cancer, but how many of us are aware that the type of work we do might also increase the risk?
Carcinogens are substances capable of causing cancer. Common, well-known workplace carcinogens include solar UV radiation, asbestos, silica dust, environmental (or second-hand) tobacco smoke, diesel engine exhaust and wood dust.
The latest Australian Work Exposure Study (AWES) reports estimate workers’ likelihood of potential exposure to 38 known or suspected carcinogens likely to be used in Australian workplaces.
In particular, the reports examined exposure to carcinogens for study participants in the agricultural, construction and manufacturing industries.
“The data used in these reports are based on the Australian Work Exposure Study, a national survey that collected information from a random sample of 5528 respondents about their activities in the workplace and the controls used when performing those activities,” said Safe Work Australia Director of Research and Evaluation Dr Fleur de Crespigny.
“This information was used to estimate possible and probable exposures among respondents to 38 agents classified by the International Agency for Research on Cancer as known or suspected carcinogens.”
The reports use AWES data to estimate carcinogenic exposures for study participants within each industry, identify the main circumstances of those exposures, and describe the reported use of workplace controls and protective measures designed to decrease those exposures.
“It’s important to note that while most workers will not develop cancer as a result of work-related exposures, those exposed to known or suspected carcinogens are at greater risk,” said Dr de Crespigny.
“While existing work health and safety guidance provides information about potential health effects and how exposures might occur and be prevented, the results from this study suggest that the use of controls could be improved by taking further preventative measures specific to each industry.”
Read the Australian Workplace Exposure reports for more information about health effects, common exposure scenarios and options for preventing or minimising potential exposures to carcinogens: