A leading asbestos campaigner has accused the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) of “overseeing” the worst asbestos cancer epidemic in the world and of making “unjustified” claims to ministers that its policies are working. The charges come from Michael Lees, a founder member of the Asbestos in Schools campaign and whose teacher wife Gina died of the asbestos cancer mesothelioma.
The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), the US government’s occupational health research agency, has published an updated dangerous drugs listing to accompany its guide to the hazards posed to healthcare workers by the medicines they administer. In the introduction to the updated drugs list, NIOSH notes: “Hazardous drugs include those used for cancer chemotherapy, antiviral drugs, hormones, some bioengineered drugs, and other miscellaneous drugs.” Some chemotherapy and other drugs are linked to occupational cancer.
Five months after labour and environmental campaigners called on Apple to remove highly toxic chemicals including benzene and n-hexane from its supplier factories in China, the hi-tech multinational has announced it will “explicitly prohibit the use of benzene and n-hexane” at 22 of its final assembly supplier factories employing nearly 500,000 workers. The move however is not extended further down the multinational’s extensive supply chain.
Workers in the fracking industry are exposed to high levels of dangerous chemicals including cancer-causing benzene, an official study has found. The US government’s occupational health research body NIOSH found technicians working over the flowback tanks were routinely exposed to benzene at above its recommended exposure limit.
A decision to award compensation to the widow of a bus maintenance worker who died of diesel exhaust-related lung cancer has been hailed as a ‘monumental’ breakthrough by his union. Anthony Nigro, a member of Transport Workers’ Union (TWU) Local 100 in New York, USA, died a few months after retiring in 2012. Lawyer Robert Grey, who filed a workers’ compensation claim on behalf of the family, said this is “the first case where a Workers’ Compensation Board, or any other court, has recognised the cause and effect of diesel to occupational disease.” The company contested the claim, noting the victim’s history of smoking. But an expert providing testimony for the family said his job provided “ample exposure… to diesel exhaust emission.” In June 2012, an expert panel convened by the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) reclassified diesel fume as a top rated ‘Group 1’ carcinogen. A study published in 2013 concluded almost 5 per cent of lung cancer deaths in the United States and the United Kingdom may be due to workplace exposure to diesel exhaust.
Industry claims that formaldehyde does not cause cancer have been dismissed by US government experts. A National Academies of Science (NAS) assessment of the cancer risks from formaldehyde – a common industrial chemical found in furniture, building materials and other household products – concluded it poses a threat to humans for three types of cancer: nasopharyngeal cancer; sinonasal cancer; and myeloid leukaemia. According to Jennifer Sass of the US Natural Resources Defense Fund (NRDC), the finding will be a blow to the industry lobby as the NAS review “was politically motivated, the result of a campaign by the chemical industry and its allies in Congress to protect formaldehyde and styrene, another common chemical linked to cancer.” According to Sass, when subject to close scrutiny the chemical industry’s case “added up to little more than a baseless defence of their toxic products. The chemical industry needs to start producing safer products, and stop attacking independent science and defending cancer-causing chemicals.” In 2009, formaldehyde’s top Group 1 human cancer risk rating from the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) was broadened to include leukaemia in the list of cancers with an established link to the chemical.
Brain tumours in children have been linked to exposure of either parent to workplace solvents. The study, published in the British Journal of Cancer, found a link between parents’ exposure to chemicals such as benzene, toluene, and trichloroethylene and brain tumours in their children.
Susan Peters and others. Childhood brain tumours: associations with parental occupational exposure to solvents, British Journal of Cancer, published online. doi:10.1038/bjc.2014.358. ABC Science News. Risks 666.
A series of intensive official construction site inspections has revealed a health ‘timebomb’ facing workers, UCATT has said. The site union was commenting after the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) visited 560 sites over two weeks, focussing on significant long-term health risks for workers including respiratory risks from dusts containing silica, exposure to other hazardous substances such as cement and lead paint, manual handling, noise and vibration. Many construction exposures, including silica, paint fumes, asbestos and diesel exhaust fumes, are linked to occupational cancers.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) has called on Zimbabwe’s pro-asbestos government to correct a dangerous misrepresentation of the WHO position on asbestos. It follows the release in May 2014 of a position paper from the Zimbabwean authorities claiming WHO supports “controlled use” of chrysotile asbestos; the global health agency in fact says asbestos cannot be used safely and has called for all use of chrysotile asbestos to stop.
A growing number of Ground Zero first responders and rescuers are seeking compensation for their illnesses, and more than 2,500 of them have contracted cancer. That toll has climbed from the 1,140 cancer cases reported in 2013, according to the World Trade Center Health Program at Mount Sinai Hospital.