The body that advises the UK government on additions to the ‘prescribed industrial disease’ list has said cancers of the larynx or ovary linked to asbestos exposure should not be added to the list.
The Industrial Injuries Advisory Council (IIAC) reviewed the evidence for prescription – including a condition on the list eligible for government Industrial Injuries Disablement Benefit payments – after a request from the Asbestos Victims Support Groups’ Forum. This was prompted by the publication in 2012 of an International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) monograph that concluded “there is sufficient evidence in humans that asbestos causes mesothelioma and cancer of the lung, larynx, and ovary.” Lung cancer and mesothelioma related to asbestos are already recognised for payouts, but cancers of the larynx and ovary are not.
Declining to add cancer of the larynx caused by asbestos to the list, IIAC noted “that the evidence of a doubling of risk of laryngeal cancer associated with asbestos exposure remains inconsistent.” For cancer of the ovary, IIAC “concluded that exposures to asbestos probably increase the risk of ovarian cancer and may do so by more than two-fold if very high.” It said however the exposure level causing a doubling of risks is difficult to define so IIAC “does not therefore recommend prescription for cancer of the ovary in relation to asbestos exposure.”
Critics of the IIAC system say the doubling of risk criteria it uses rules out most occupational cancers and is an arbitrary rule that sets an unfair benchmark not required by the regulations governing IIAC’s operation. Cancer of the larynx caused by asbestos is already recognised for state compensation payouts in countries including Germany, France, Denmark and Italy.
IIAC summary and Cancers of the larynx or ovary and work with asbestos: IIAC information note, February 2015. IARC Monograph 100C, 2012. Risks 692.
Sufferers of an asbestos-related cancer will in the future receive extra payouts after the government revised its mesothelioma compensation rules. Under new rules for the government’s Diffuse Mesothelioma Payment Scheme compensation will rise to match 100 per cent of average civil claims, up from the current 80 per cent.
Adrian Budgen of personal injury law firm Irwin Mitchell said the change left other flaws in the scheme untouched. He said: “The increase in payments should of course be welcomed but it is disappointing that it isn’t retrospective. It is also disappointing that mesothelioma sufferers diagnosed before 25 July 2012, who would otherwise have been eligible for a payment, were excluded from the outset. The scheme has a number of inadequacies but, for those people who have received payments to date, it has afforded them some financial security.”
DWP news release and ministerial written statement. Risks 690.
There must be a far greater acknowledgement of the role of work in causing cancers, the UK Chartered Society for Worker Health Protection (BOHS) has warned. Commenting on World Cancer Day – 4 February – BOHS said that neglecting to understand and control occupational exposures to carcinogens, by means of highly effective occupational hygiene solutions, threatens future progress in the battle against the disease.
It added that it was “concerned that, all too often, the work-related causes of cancer fail to be properly acknowledged and are overlooked in the media and other sources of information about cancer.” Simple and cost-effective solutions could “eliminate” workplace risks, it said.
BOHS news release. World Cancer Day. Global unions zero cancer campaign. Risks 690.
Europe’s workplaces are using 5,675 chemicals that manufacturers or importers consider to be carcinogenic, mutagenic or toxic for reproduction (CMR).
The figures come in a January report of notifications to the European Chemicals Agency (ECHA). ECHA compared the data supplied by manufacturers and importers when notifying the classification and labelling of hazardous substances under the classification, labelling and packaging regulations (CLP) with the registration dossiers submitted by firms handling larger quantities of chemicals under the REACH rules.
Of the 5,675 chemicals marketed in the EU that manufacturers or importers regarded as CMRs, just 1,169 were registered – a discrepancy that alarmed the union thinktank ETUI. “Why this is – and what makes NGOs and trade unions deeply unhappy – is that the REACH regulation only requires CMRs produced in Europe or imported in quantities of one tonne or more a year to be registered,” said the ETUI’s chemical risks expert Tony Musu.
ETUI said “a large number of CMRs are floating around the EU market outside the REACH registration procedure” intended to keep tabs on the risks of these hazardous chemicals to consumers’ and workers’ health.
ETUI news report. ECHA news release and report, 19 January 2015. Risks 689.