Cancer Council Australia

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90,000 Australians face work-based cancer risk

More than 90,000 workers across four sectors could be at risk of occupational cancer as a result of Australia's fragmented approach to reducing exposure to workplace carcinogens, a forum in Melbourne will hear today [3 May].

Analyses to be presented at a national forum hosted by Cancer Council Australia and the Australian Council of Trade Unions shows the highest numbers of at-risk workers are employed in machinery manufacture (42,000), printing and allied industries (25,700), food (14,800) and plastics manufactures (11,400).

Chair of Cancer Council's Occupational Cancers Committee, Terry Slevin, said Australia remained in the dark ages when it came to reducing the risks of occupational cancer.

?There is no cohesion in the regulatory framework, no incentives for industry to reduce the use of toxins and no integrated approach to fixing these and other problems,? Mr Slevin said.

ACTU Assistant Secretary Michael Borowick said fragmentation was evident in the absence of regulatory links between three of the key government agencies involved ? Safework Australia, the National Industrial Chemicals Notification and Assessment Scheme and the National Pollutions Inventory.

?These three bureaucracies operate in silos, despite all of them having some responsibility for helping to protect Australian workers from occupational cancer,? Mr Borowick said.

?Compare this to the European Union, which is introducing the REACH, based on ?no data , no use principle? which will coordinate and require action from companies throughout the EU, which has 27 member states, as many languages and 500 million people.?

Mr Slevin said the EU?s REACH (Registration, Evaluation, Authorisation and Restriction of Chemicals) model showed what could be achieved when government, industry and employee organisations worked together to advance occupational health and safety. Another example that worked well for industry and workers was the Toxic Use Reduction Institute in Massachusetts, whose format had recently been adapted in Ontario, Canada.

?Australia is seen as a leader in cancer prevention, yet we lag well behind many comparable economies when it comes to protecting our workers from cancer risk,? Mr Slevin said.

?The Government is looking at ways to improve the system, so we hope the evidence presented today encourages the establishment of an integrated national approach to reducing workplace cancer risk.?

Media contacts
Cancer Council:
Glen Turner
Mobile: 0412 443 212 

Rebecca Tucker
Mobile: 0408 031 269

This page was last updated on: Monday, August 20, 2012

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