An analysis of data from the world’s largest and longest-running study of women’s health found that rotating night shift work is associated with higher death rates.
The international team of researchers investigated possible links between rotating night shift work and all-cause, cardiovascular disease, and cancer mortality in a study of almost 75,000 registered US nurses. Using data from the Nurses’ Health Study (NHS), the authors analysed 22 years of follow-up. Reporting in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine, they conclude that all-cause and cardiovascular disease-related mortality were significantly increased among women who worked more than five years of rotating night shifts when compared to those who never worked the night shift.
In addition, the study found that working 15 or more years of rotating night shifts was associated with a modest increase in lung cancer mortality.
Fangyi Gu, Jiali Han, Francine Laden and others. Total and Cause-Specific Mortality of US Nurses Working Rotating Night Shifts, American Journal of Preventive Medicine, published online ahead of print, 5 January 2015. DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.amepre.2014.10.018. Risks 685.
The Industrial Injuries Advisory Council (IIAC) has decided there is not a case for recommend recognising dioxin related lung cancers as a prescribed industrial disease. An IIAC information note concludes: “After reviewing the limited evidence available on this subject, the Industrial Injuries Advisory Council (IIAC) decided not to make any recommendations for changes to the list of prescribed diseases for which people can claim Industrial Injuries Disablement Benefit (IIDB).”
Lung cancer and dioxins, IIAC information note.
The petroleum industry has known for decades that benzene, one of its most important products, is a potent cause of cancer in humans but has spent millions on a cover-up, am evidence database has revealed. Internal memorandums, emails, letters and meeting minutes obtained by the Center for Public Integrity (CPI) in a year-long investigation suggest that America’s oil and chemical titans, coordinated by their trade association, the American Petroleum Institute, spent at least $36 million on research “designed to protect member company interests,” as one 2000 API summary put it. CPI says many of the documents “chronicle an unparalleled effort by five major petrochemical companies” to finance benzene research in Shanghai, China. Benzene, which is produced from crude oil to make plastics, lubricants, dyes, adhesives and pesticides, is also a key component in petrol (gasoline). According to CPI, “it is 17th most produced chemical in the US.” Benzene is accepted to be a potent human carcinogen, causing leukaemia and other cancers. In 2004, a US National Cancer Institute study suggested there’s no safe threshold for people working with the chemical. CPI’s review of around 20,000 pages of internal records reveals the petrochemical industry went to great lengths to rebut studies showing harmful effects of benzene in low doses. This included touting how the expected results of a proposed study in China could be used to reduce liability and combat stricter regulation. Critics say such documents expose this Shanghai study for what it is: An industry attempt to buy scientific evidence.
Benzene and worker cancers: ‘An American tragedy’. Exposed: Decades of denial on poisons, evidence database compiled by the Center for Public Integrity, Columbia University and City University of New York, 4 December 2014. The ‘dirty dozen’ documents from the database. Risks 684.
The public prosecutor of the Italian Supreme Court of Cassation has overturned the conviction of Swiss billionaire Stephan Schmidheiny, who had received an 18 year jail term for causing the deaths of thousands of asbestos victims. The 19 November 2014 ruling means the former head of the Eternit Group is no longer a fugitive, because the public prosecutor ruled the original charges were filed too late.
IndustriALL news release, 27 November 2014. Risks 683.
Tests of air around homes near natural gas drilling wells and other production equipment in five US states have found sometimes grossly elevated levels of chemicals linked to cancer. Some samples, all taken off site in the community, were in excess of occupational standards. These included both benzene and formaldehyde, chemicals rated as group 1 human carcinogens by the UN’s International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC). Exposures faced by some fracking workers closer to the source of the chemicals are likely to be significantly higher. Studies by US government safety agencies have already confirmed high exposures to carcinogenic and toxic chemicals including benzene during some fracking operations, with some related poisoning deaths also confirmed.
Gregg Macey, David Carpenter and others. Air concentrations of volatile compounds near oil and gas production: a community-based exploratory study, Environmental Health, volume 13, page 82, 2014.
The European Union must take action to stop the 100,000 deaths a year caused by occupational cancers, unions have said. The European Trade Union Confederation (ETUC) also condemned the European Commission for blocking health and safety improvements and for putting forward an extremely weak health and safety strategy to run until 2020. Putting together its own plan to improve conditions for Europe’s workers, the ETUC has called for wide-ranging action. A resolution agreed by the union body says there must be legally enforceable exposure limits for 50 of the most cancer-causing chemicals and substances toxic for reproduction. The union body is highly critical of the European Commission, which it says has blocked a revision of the rules on cancer-causing and mutagenic exposures at work, so only three cancer inducing chemicals have European exposure limits. Bernadette Ségol, general secretary of the ETUC, said: “It is a scandal that 100,000 people die every year in the EU from occupational cancers, and an outrage that the Barroso Commission refused to pass any new health and safety law. I invite the new Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker and Commissioner Marianne Thyssen to take action to protect European citizens from death, disease and illness at work.”
ETUC news release, 1 December 2014 and health and safety resolution.
Asbestos campaigners have responded furiously to a decision by Italy’s top court to quash on a technicality the conviction of an asbestos company executive previously found responsible for thousands of deaths. The Court of Cassation overturned an 18-year prison sentence for Swiss billionaire Stephan Schmidheiny, the former owner of construction giant Eternit.
France 24 News. Yahoo News. The Local. Risks 682.
Welders and cooks may be at greater risk of ocular melanoma (melanoma of the eye) than workers in other occupations, but that doesn’t mean the Industrial Injuries Advisory Council (IIAC) is willing to recognise it as a prescribed industrial disease in affected workers. An IIAC position paper notes: “The council found that there is consistent evidence that the risk of ocular melanoma is increased by welding. But there is uncertainty over the definitions of ‘welding’ in the published studies and an absence of robust evidence for a relationship between risk and exposure. There may be an increase in the risk of ocular melanoma in cooks but the evidence base is limited. There is a lack of clarity over the definitions of exposure and very little information on the duration of exposure that would confer an increase in risk. Studies of other occupational populations suggest risks may be increased in some, but the evidence is neither strong nor consistent. After considering the evidence, the council concluded that there remains insufficient evidence to recommend any changes to the list of prescribed diseases for which people can claim Industrial Injuries Disablement Benefit.”
Ocular melanoma and occupation, IIAC position paper 33.
Every day thousands of workers in Asia are exposed to dangerous chemicals without the required protection while making computers and other hitech equipment, a new report has found. ‘Winds of change’, produce for ElectronicWatch and which involved fieldwork in South Korea, noted that the chemicals used included benzene, a heavily restricted and potent human carcinogen.
Electronics Watch news release and full report, Winds of change: public procurement’s potential for improving conditions in the ICT industry. Green America blog. Risks 680.
UK-based safety officers’ organisation IOSH has taken up the occupational cancer cause. IOSH said its ‘No time to lose’ campaign launch “kick-started an unprecedented drive, led by the Institution of Occupational Safety and Health (IOSH), to cut the number of deaths from work-related cancer and raise awareness about the risks.”
IOSH news release and No time to lose campaign. The TUC and global unions occupational cancer prevention campaigns. Risks 679.