1.5m workers at risk from carcinogens

MORE than 1.5 million workers may be exposed to cancer-causing substances on the job without even knowing it, the ACTU claims. Speaking on International Workers Memorial Day, when unions remember workers who have lost their lives at work, ACTU president Sharan Burrow launched a three-year campaign to eliminate cancer-causing substances from the workplace.

She said figures showed more than 1.5 million workers a year were exposed to potentially cancer-creating products.

“That isn’t related to any one occupation,” Ms Burrow said.

“There are some occupations clearly that are more likely to come in contact with products that can create cancer, but right across the board … wherever people are liable to be working with products that we don’t know enough about.”

Ms Burrow called for a government-led national inquiry and more research into cancer-causing substances in workplaces.

Workplace Safety inspector Tony Evans said his wife Gillian died at the age of 57 of cancer after being exposed to asbestos dust at her work.

Ms Evans had worked at her local hospital, regularly sweeping the floors of dust that contained asbestos from nearby plumbing pipes.

He said a 20-cent face mask could have saved his wife’s life.

“With the right safety systems in the workplace, with the right safety management systems in the workplace, my wife would have still been here today,” Mr Evans said.

“A two-bob face mask from Bunnings may have well saved her life, that’s how much it costs.”

Ms Burrow said Australia had the highest number of mesothelioma cases, cancer caused by asbestos, in the world.

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