Cancer is one of the biggest health problems for the 40 million workers in the EU. It accounts for 52% of work-related deaths every year - double that of death from circulatory illnesses and workplace injuries combined.
Euronews spoke to Mary Schubauer-Berigan from the International Agency for Research on Cancer about the threat of working with substances that can cause cancer
She identified the four groups that potential carcinogens, things that increase the risk of cancer, can be put into:
- Group 1, materials that are known to be cancerogenic.
- Group 2A, those that are probably cancerogenic.
- Group 2B, materials with a possibility of being cancerogenic.
- And group 3, substances that cannot be classified as cancerogenic or not.
What materials are in Group 1?
Wood dust was determined to be a group 1 carcinogen - it is known to cause cancer. This was discovered when studies were performed on wood workers in North America, Europe and elsewhere.
Mary works in the IARC's monographs group - meaning she reviews a range of studies relating to carcinogens and assesses the strength of the evidence. Based on this assessment she can classify which materials increase the risk of cancer.
"The Monographs Program was very important to help us learn about that causation that wood dust can cause cancer. And since then, national and international organizations can take steps to reduce exposures the cancer that can be caused from working with these hazards materials."
What materials have newly been discovered to be carcinogenic?
"Welding fumes exposure can cause lung cancer, they can also cause a type of eye cancer called ocular melanoma. And so because welding fumes are such a common exposure in the work place, it is important that employers and workers takes place to reduce exposure there."
She went on to talk about the materials that might be classified as carcinogenic in the future.
"Some examples includes metal working fluids, which are used as a lubricant in automotive industry and general metal working, another example is engineered nanomaterials, including carbon nanotubes"
"Another example is coal dust. Coal mining continues to be an industry that’s carried out globally, and so there are concerns that coal dusts may cause cancer."