Four In Ten Australian Workers Are Exposed To Cancer-Causing Agents At Work, Researchers Say

Scientists say four in ten Australian workers are exposed to carcinogens in their jobs, including sun exposure, diesel engine fumes, cigarette smoke and the solvent benzine.

A study from UWA and the Harry Perkins Institute of Medical Research surveyed 5,023 Australian workers aged between 18 and 65 about their job tasks.

The survey results were combined with existing research on carcinogen exposure.

“1879 respondents (37.6%) were assessed as being exposed to at least one occupational carcinogen in their current job,” the researchers wrote in the British Medical Journal’s Occupational Environmental Medicine.

“Extrapolation of these figures to the Australian working population suggested 3.6 million (40.3%) current workers could be exposed to carcinogens in their workplace.”

Unsurprisingly, the most common carcinogen was radiation from the sun, to which 37% of male workers and 7.9% of females were exposed.

Researchers noted that farmers, drivers, miners and transport workers were most likely to be exposed to at least one of the 38 priority carcinogens studied.

Meanwhile, they said 13 categories of workers had no exposure to the 38 carcinogens at work, including those employed in retail; customer service; correctional services; carers; psychologists and social workers; childcare workers; school teachers not involved in art, science of technical subjects; and white-collar professionals and clerical workers, as long as they did not travel or drive as part of their work.

UWA Professor Lin Fritschi said the new figures were higher than existing data because they included SMB workers, including people who were self-employed, while previous data typically came from big corporates’ Occupational Health and Safety teams.

There’s more in the BMJ.

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