Work cancer action could save thousands a year in Australia

Over one in ten (14 per cent) cases of lung cancer in Australia could be prevented if asbestos, silica, diesel exhaust and welding fume exposure were reduced in workplaces, according to the country’s national union federation ACTU. It says the figure, based on best available data, corresponds to roughly 1,800 work-related deaths every year from lung cancer that could have been avoided with better safety measures.

The ACTU is calling upon the federal government to take urgent action, including implementing recommendations made by a National Dust Diseases Taskforce. It adds there must be adequate workplace exposure standards introduced for all hazardous substances, including silica, diesel exhaust and welding fumes, to avoid more preventable deaths from lung disease.

ACTU assistant secretary Liam O’Brien commented: “This fight won’t be over until all Australian workers can go to work and know they’re going to be safe from disease.” He added: “There is a plague of silicosis and cancers in workers who’ve come into contact with silica in their workplace. This risks becoming the asbestos of our generation, and we must act to prevent huge numbers of workers becoming sick and dying now.

“Until we have an adequate, fit-for-purpose workplace exposure standard for these dangerous substances, we’re going to continue to see deaths from lung disease caused by work exposure.”

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