130 develop lung cancer annually
Wednesday 05 October 2016
The Cancer Council is calling on the mining sector to take the threat of diesel fumes very seriously following new estimates that about 130 Australian workers a year are developing lung cancer because of exposure to diesel fumes at work.
Diesel is the primary source of energy on a mine site, with an average haul truck consuming around 6500 litres of diesel on a 12-hour shift - depending on the conditions under which it is operating.
Multiply that by the fleet of haul trucks operating in Central Queensland, and add all the ancillary earthmoving gear and smaller diesel powered tools, and you get a glimpse of the size of the risk in mining.
Terry Slevin, Chair of Cancer Council Australia’s Occupational and Environmental Cancer Committee, said an estimated 3.6 million Australians were exposed to cancer-causing agents at work.
However, he says awareness of the risks of diesel fumes is among the lowest.
“Awareness of the risks of exposures to asbestos and UV radiation is increasing, and is reflected in gradual improvements in work practices,” he said.
“By contrast, awareness of the hazards of exposure to diesel fumes is low, especially in relation to the potential harm.
“Exposure to diesel fumes is Australia’s second-most common work-based cancer-causing agent.
“The World Health Organization’s International Agency for Research on Cancer has upgraded its classification of diesel exhaust to a ‘Group 1’ carcinogen, confirming that it is an established cause of cancer in humans.
“IARC estimates that people regularly exposed to diesel exhaust fumes at work can be up to 40% more likely to develop lung cancer.”
The risk presented by diesel fumes is not just directly linked to the volume of diesel being used. It also has to do with the environment under which the fumes exist, meaning workers using generators, compressors, power plants or forklifts in a garage or workshop could even be at a higher risk.
“Taking simple steps, such as winding up the window and turning on the air con if you are driving a diesel vehicle, can reduce your cancer risk,” Mr Slevin said.
“Taking stronger action now, and increasing awareness, will go a long way to avoiding the worst kind of problems down the track [such as] employees being diagnosed with cancer that can be attributed to what happened to them at work.”
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