Cancer risk hiding in your workplace
THE federal workplace health and safety authority, Safe Work Australia, estimates that 5000 Australians are diagnosed with cancer each year that may result from occupational exposure to carcinogens.
New research by the Cancer Council suggests the true number of people exposed to harmful materials in the course of their employment is much higher, with an estimated 3.6 million Australians potentially exposed to carcinogens at work.
Their report, Occupational Exposures to Carcinogens in Australia, found that between 2000 and 2012, there were 4745 compensation claims made for occupationally related cancers, resulting in a combined bill of $360.5 million.
Skin cancer and mesotheli-
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But the research found those figures vastly underreported the problem and estimated that only a small fraction — less than 8 per cent — of cancer cases caused by occupational risk factors had received compensation.
According to the Cancer Council, the reasons for this include a lack of awareness of occupational risk factors for cancer among workers and health professionals, along with the inherent difficulties in assigning a specific occupational cause.
For every mesothelioma diagnosis, it is suggested that there are two asbestosrelated lung cancer cases but the connection is not made because the worker had been a smoker.
Lung cancer can also be caused by workplace exposure to silica, radiation and chemicals.
While obvious risk factors such as working at heights or with heavy machinery are often front of mind when ensuring workplaces operate safely, this research reveals that less obvious risks, such as regular sun exposure and hidden carcinogens in the workplace can actually be far more dangerous.
For people diagnosed with a cancer caused by occupational exposure, it is important to seek timely legal advice.