Real and Present Danger: The Underestimated Impact of Carcinogens in the Workplace
- Connie Muncy (AES Corp.)
- Document ID
- American Society of Safety Engineers
- Professional Safety
- Publication Date
- July 2018
- Document Type
- Journal Paper
- 41 - 49
- 2018. American Society of Safety Engineers
- 0 in the last 30 days
- 19 since 2007
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- Workplace cancer statistics from around the world reflect the seriousness of the global workplace cancer situation and reveal which worker groups are at greatest risk.
- This article discusses why workplace cancer prevention has a lower profile than workplace injury and what actions must be taken to elevate the profile of workplace cancer prevention.
- It also discusses important factors that influence workplace cancer cluster investigations.
Worldwide, workplace cancer prevention has a significantly lower profile than workplace injury prevention despite a real and present need to elevate the profile of workplace cancer prevention globally. Many organizations worldwide attest to the high number of annual work-related cancers and cancer deaths, but then say that workplace cancer statistics are underestimated, that the problem is worse than statistics bear out, and that the profile of workplace cancer prevention must be elevated. This apparent consensus begs a few questions. Supported by reputable resources from around the globe, this article explores several questions:
- What is occupational cancer, how prevalent is it and what are its causes?
- Why does cancer prevention have a much lower profile than workplace injury prevention?
- Are current occupational exposure limits (OELs) for carcinogens adequate?
- What are the problems associated with cancer cluster investigations, how reliable are they and what must be done to improve them?
- What must be done to advance the cause of workplace cancer prevention?
- What are some valuable resources available to those who want to help advance the cause of workplace cancer prevention?
What Is Cancer & How Prevalent Is It?
According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ 14th Report on Carcinogens, cancer affects almost everyone’s life, either directly or indirectly; approximately one out of two men and one out of three women living in the U.S. will develop cancer at some point in his/her lifetime (NTP, 2016). According to American Cancer Society (ACS, 2017a), cancer is the second most common cause of death in the U.S. and accounts for nearly one of every four deaths. World Health Organization (WHO, 2017) estimates that worldwide in 2012 (the most recent data), 14 million new cancer cases and 8.2 million cancer-related deaths occurred, and that the number of new cancer cases is expected to rise by about 70% over the next 20 years.
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