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New report says cleaners and waste management workers ‘’still at risk from workplace carcinogens
Cleaners and those involved in waste management have once again been highlighted as an at-risk group when it comes to occupational cancer as a result of exposure to carcinogens in cleaning products – this time in a report just published by the European Agency for Safety & Health at Work.
‘Exposure to carcinogens and work-related cancer’, acknowledges that occupational cancer is a problem that still needs to be tackled across the European Union and particularly in service industries such as cleaning and waste management. It looks into relevant occupational factors: chemical, physical and biological exposures, as well as other possibly carcinogenic working environment conditions (such as shift and night work). It also examines opportunities to identify new causes or promoters of cancer and addresses the issue of vulnerable groups of workers.
The report acknowledges that chemical substances and radiation are well-known causes of occupational cancer, saying that only a relatively small number of cancer-causing chemical exposures have been investigated thoroughly, and that a lot remains to be done about other risks, such as physical, pharmaceutical and biological factors. It says that shift work which involves circadian disruption and sedentary work have been identified as possible contributing factors to the development of work-related cancer and that there is increasing evidence that specific non-ionising radiation could be linked to cancer risks. Work-related stress may indirectly lead to cancers, it says, as workers may employ coping strategies that involve smoking, drinking, drug consumption or excessive, unbalanced eating.
It warns that there are also emerging risks from nanomaterials, for example carbon nanotubes, and from endocrine-disrupting compounds, and these are discussed in the report.
Many of the chemical exposures identified in the publication, are generated at work and are not covered by REACH - the EU regulation on the registration, evaluation, authorisation and restriction of chemicals. However, for those single carcinogenic substances that do come under REACH legislation (being either registered or included in the list of substances of very high concern), the use conditions and preventive measures required will be determined in the exposure scenarios included in the extended safety data sheets of the regulated substances. The report stresses that this information on the safe use of carcinogens should also be forwarded to downstream users, who, in turn, may promote and improve prevention.
The report warns that there are a number of emerging risks that warrant particular attention at all levels, for example nanomaterials, endocrine disruptors and non-ionising radiation. Little is known about the effects of engineered nanoparticles on cancer or other related diseases, while conventional SDSs do not require automatic notification of nanomaterial ingredients. To increase data on nanomaterial use and exposure, France has introduced a compulsory registration scheme; similar schemes are being considered in Norway, Belgium, Denmark, Sweden and Italy. The report recommends that this procedure be adopted throughout Europe.
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18th December 2014