Labour Research November 2015

Health & Safety Matters

Report spells out risks of occupational cancer

Across the EU, occupational cancer kills 20 times more people than those who die in occupational accidents, according to a new publication by the European Trade Union Institute (ETUI), Eliminating occupational cancer in Europe and globally.

In addition, the 10 most important occupational cancer-causing substances and working conditions (carcinogens) account for around 85% of all occupational deaths, with asbestos the biggest killer.

The paper argues for a goal to eliminate occupational cancer in Europe and around the world. And it calls for an international Elimination of Occupational Cancer programme to be launched, following the World Health Organisation model of elimination of smallpox from the world, as well as programmes to eliminate asbestos-related diseases and silicosis.

It says that the EU must be a key driver for such a programme and recommends full implementation of the Registration, Evaluation, Authorisation and restriction of Chemicals (REACH) programme, prioritising substitution of carcinogenic, mutagenic and reprotoxic substances in the authorisation and restriction processes. 

Eliminating occupational cancer also calls for binding and enforced occupational exposure limits, particularly for carcinogens such as crystalline silica, diesel exhaust and wood dust.