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Survey of European workplaces reveals most frequent cancer-risk exposures


Photo: Pro-syanov/iStockphoto

Madrid — Solar ultraviolet radiation and diesel engine exhaust emissions top the list of most frequent exposures that put European workers at risk for cancer, results of a recent survey show.

The European Agency for Safety and Health at Work surveyed and interviewed more than 24,000 workers from six European Union member countries as part of its Workers’ Exposure Study. Participants were at least 15 years old and worked in all sectors of economic activity – including self-employed workers or people employed in micro and small organizations – in Finland, France, Germany, Hungary, Ireland and Spain.

Benzene, respirable crystalline silica and formaldehyde rounded out the top five list.

Around 1 out of 5 of the workers (21%) said they’d been exposed to at least one of the 24 known cancer-risk factors listed in the survey. Those included industrial chemicals, process-generated substances and mixtures, and physical risk factors. Meanwhile, 26% of the workers reported exposure to multiple risk factors on the job.

Workers in micro-sized (two to nine employees) and small (10-49) workplaces were 1.3 times more likely to report exposure to one or more cancer-risk factors than their counterparts in medium-sized (50-249) or large (250 and more) workplaces.

More than 60% of the workers in mining/quarrying and construction reported more than one exposure to a cancer-risk factor. Multiple exposures were also considerably higher among the participants who worked more than 50 hours a week.

In a press release, EU-OSHA Executive Director William Cockburn said the survey is “certainly going to contribute to improving preventive measures and to updating evidence-based policy.”

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