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November is Lung Cancer Awareness Month (Part 3 of 3) – Working Conditions

Winding up our series in connection with “Lung Cancer Awareness Month”, we'll be writing something we know quite a bit about; Occupational Conditions.

As a health and environment company that works all around the globe with businesses in just about every industry, we've seen the worst of conditions as well as the best, future proof outcomes from many businesses.

There are two big misconceptions when people in general think of lung cancer. The first one is, “Only smokers get lung cancer; or people who lived with smokers”. The second is “People who work in coal mines are at most risk for lung diseases; not me”.

Mythbuster 1

“Only smokers get lung cancer; or people who lived with smokers”.

While smoking contributes to the most cases of lung cancer, secondary causes, i.e., working conditions are often diminished in acknowledged relevance. Globally, approximately 75% of lung cancer cases are attributable in part to smoking tobacco, while an estimated 15% of lung cancer in men and 5% in women could be attributed to occupational exposures.

It is also reported that women are more likely than men to have nonsmoking-related lung cancer.

Mythbuster 2

“People who work in coal mines are at most risk for lung diseases”.

Yes, working in a coal mine does not promote healthy working conditions, but if you think of the population of people working in other fields that are diagnosed with lung cancer, coal mines are just a blip on the radar.

“It is estimated that occupational cancers are a leading cause of work-related deaths worldwide”.

– Institution of Occupational Safety and Health

Hazardous jobs

Which types of jobs are riskier in developing lung cancer?

While any type of work that exposes people to breathing in chemicals, gases, radioactive substances, and specific types of dust (organic/inorganic) can pose a risk to getting lung cancer, here are some just a few of several industries that can pose a risk towards acquiring lung cancer.

Manufacturing and production industries – exposure to fossil fuels, coal products, benzene, diesel engine exhaust, asbestos, silica, paints and solvents.

Construction and painting – exposure to asbestos, silica, diesel engine exhaust, coal products, paint and solvents, or wood dust, etc.

Service industries – second-hand smoke, paint fumes, and diesel engine exhaust are all attributable to increasing the risk of lung cancer.

Drugs and chemicals – Mixing/compounding of HD’s (hazardous drugs) and/or chemicals (benzene/other volatile organic compounds); seen in both hospital pharmacies, and with semiconductor/electronics manufacturing.

Who are “Doll and Peto”, and why is their work so important?

Sir Richard Doll and Sir Richard Peto’s Oxford University review published in 1981 had estimated that such occupationally-induced cancers accounted for about 3% of all cancer deaths, with lung cancer accounting for over two-thirds of deaths attributed to occupation and asbestos being the single agent associated with the largest number of cancer deaths.

The article has become a reference standard still used today.

More recent publications have estimated that the percentage of cancer deaths explained by occupation is 5.3% in Britain and 2.6% in Sweden.

In Great Britain, it is also estimated that there are 13,500 cancer registrations (newly occurring cases of cancer) per year attributable to occupations.

What if I work in a field that carries a higher risk for developing lung disease?

Avoiding exposure to dangerous air contaminants is key in preventing lung cancer. Here are three important points in helping protect yourself (and your workers) from acquiring lung diseases, like lung cancer, from occupational conditions.

Evaluate/inspect: Chemicals contamination in the workplace should be investigated regularly, with annual health surveillance to evaluate the effectiveness of control measures in the workplace and to protect the health of printing workers.

Personal protective equipment: (masks, gloves, etc) could help reduce exposure of chemicals in certain working environments.

Ventilation/air filtration: A functioning ventilation system that brings in the outdoor air, along with dedicated air filtration systems to clean all indoor air by capturing its contaminants and releasing cleaned air back in the surrounding environment is a must in most indoor work environments. It's just a matter of what type of filtration is needed for the specific area of work. There are air cleaners that capture particles, ones that capture certain gases, and some that do both.

The future looks brighter

Most companies today know more about safety protocols due to regulatory laws and restrictions within operations and working environments, plus the risk of lawsuits or being shut down. Companies today also know how beneficial it is for their business agendas to keep their workers healthy, because downtime and interruptions in their processes mean less money.

Keep yourself and your workers educated. For more information on occupational health, visit these pages:

NIOSH (The National Institute for National Safety and Health):
CCOHS (Canadian Centre for Occupation Health and Safety):
EU-OSHA (European Agency for Safety and Health at Work):
USP (The United States Pharmacopeial Convention):
To learn more about which air filtration system or clean room is right for your business click here, or reach out to a QleanAir Scandinavia representative here.

Additional sources
Hindawi – advances in preventative medicine NCBI
NCBI – article 2 IOSH Oxford Academic

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