Work in the steel and coke industries linked to cancer

A 1982 study conducted by the Institute of Occupational Medicine in Edinburgh found a clear link between some jobs in the British steel and coke industries and lung cancer. The authors noted that the elevated rates of lung cancer in blast furnace men “should be investigated”. [A 1990 study by IOM, part financed by British Steel, found for these workers there was “about a twofold risk of lung cancer relative to steel workers in other occupations.” The study design meant many cancers and other chronic diseases would not have yet emerged at the conclusion of the study.] For coke oven workers, they concluded “we consider than occupationally related excess of lung cancer has been shown clearly. We consider that the excess number of lung cancer deaths among younger workers may reflect the real risks more accurately than the results for all men.”  In 1986, the UK Industrial Injuries Advisory Council considered whether lung cancer in coke oven workers should be added to the list of prescribed industrial diseases for which no-fault state compensation was payable. IIAC said no. After another quarter of a century of uncompensated deaths, only in 2011 did IIAC conclude “that lung cancer associated with (i) at least five years in total of work at the top of a coke oven or (ii) at least 15 years in total of coke oven work, should be added to the list of prescribed diseases. For workers who move between these coke oven jobs, and whose employment in top oven work amounts to less than five years in total, we recommend that each year of top oven work be counted as contributing three years towards the greater target of 15 years, as set out in further detail in our report.” That same year IIAC declined to add lung cancer in foundry workers to the prescribed disease list.

Jacobsen and others. Mortality of workers in the British steel and coke industries, Institute of Occupational Medicine, 1982.
Also see: Hurley and others. Mortality 1967-1977 of industrial workers and ex-workers from the British steel industry: further analyses, IOM, 1990.
Occupational Lung Cancer, IIAC, December 1986.
Lung cancer in coke oven workers, Cm 8163, IIAC, 13 September 2011.
Lung Cancer and Foundry Workers, Position Paper 29, IIAC, 29 March 2011.


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