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Cancer is 'epidemic'

Cancer could be killing up to 30 construction workers every day in the UK.
The death toll is highlighted in a report called Burying the Evidence, by Rory O'Neill, editor of Hazardsmagazine, in association with the world's top five occupational health experts.

Mr O'Neill said: 'Construction has a cancer epidemic. Almost everything that we knew caused cancer a generation ago is still a risk to its workers - like asbestos, which makes construction unique compared with any other industry.

Almost everyone in construction is in an 'at risk' group whereas 22 per cent of the general population is in an 'at risk' group.'

The report, which is backed by the TUC, claims that between 12,000 and 24,000 people die in the UK every year from occupational cancer, which equates to between 8 and 16 per cent of all cancer deaths. Mr O'Neill said the final figure could be as high as 20 per cent of all cancer deaths, or 30,000 people, and construction could account for up to half of those.

Official statistics from the Health and Safety Executive estimate 6,000 people die from occupation-related cancer every year - or 4 per cent of all deaths caused by cancer. The report claims this jkis wrong and based on flawed US research conducted almost 25 years ago.

The report is calling for the HSE to rethink its approach to occupational cancer in the UK and claims the watchdog is preventing the epidemic from being dealt with properly, putting workers at risk.

An HSE spokesman said: 'We agree the figures do need updating. We have got a group of people together to come up with a new methodology and we have been working on that for a year.'

Construction workers are most at risk from exposure to asbestos, silica and solar radiation.

The report is backing the introduction of a national system of occupational health records, which could move with an individual throughout their working life. It is also urging the introduction of regulations forcing employers to tell staff the risks they face when working with certain substances.

by Sophie Kernon