Did you know? You may be exposed to cancer risks in the workplace

THE World Health Organisation (WHO) states that 19 percent of all cancers are attributable to the environment, which includes the work setting and this amounts to 1.3 million deaths each year.

Occupation-related cancer exists in air pollution, UV radiation and indoor radon and, according to WHO, lung cancer, mesothelioma and bladder cancer are the most common types of occupational cancers.


While individuals in the South African workplace are protected by staunch legislation including the Occupational Health and Safety Act, the South African Hazardous Substances Act, as well as The Asturias Declaration, the South African Institute for Occupational Health also goes a long way in informing and advising workers about safe and healthy working environments.

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“Cansa wants to encourage employers and workplaces to implement safe working spaces and circumstances for all employees, making sure their health is top priority. Being mindful of workplace health hazards is the first step in ensuring that you create a healthy environment for all,” says Melissa Wallace, Cansa Head of Research.

WHO has classified 107 agents, mixtures and exposure situations as carcinogenic to humans and confirms that one in 10 lung cancer deaths are closely related to risks in the workplace.

In addition, 132 chemicals and compounds are implicated in occupational cancers. The most common examples of chemicals and compounds found in South African employment arenas, include:

* Asphalt fumes (coal tar pitch) – road tar workers;

* Benzene – workers who work with petrochemical compounds such as diesel fumes;

* Hexavalent chromium – workers who work with compounds including electroplating, welding, and chromate painting;

* Formaldehyde – workers in synthetic chemical industries and in beauty salons;

* Coke oven emissions – workers in the steel industry.

“We believe that, if sunscreens for a certain category of worker exposed to ultraviolet radiation, are not supplied to the employee, the employer may be exposed to certain sanctions as well as run the risk of legal action. It is easy to make a difference and to keep your employees safe,” concludes Ms Wallace.

For more info visit www.cansa.org.za

(Information from The Cancer Association of South Africa)


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