Category archives: News

Diesel Fume Cancer Danger

GMB Press Release: Diesel Fume Cancer Danger

Wednesday 13th June


HSE estimates that 652 deaths have resulted from occupational diesel exposure causing lung and bladder cancer and estimates that 100,000 workers are exposed to the hazard

A call for the Health & Safety Executive (HSE) to take urgent action to prevent deaths in many workplaces due to exposure to diesel fumes was made at GMB Congress today. This followed the announcement from the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), that Diesel is now listed as a proven human carcinogen. A HSE discussion paper in May 2012 estimates 652 deaths from occupational diesel exposure due to lung and bladder cancer and an estimated 100,000 workers exposed.

GMB’s call is backed by Professor Andrew Watterson and Tommy Gorman of the Occupational and Environmental Health Research Group at the University of Stirling, Scotland.

GMB has many thousands of members working as professional drivers and is particularly concerned about the crews of security vehicles which are loaded in security vaults and the many other workers who work with continually in and around diesel fumes.

Brian Terry, GMB Senior Safety Representative from the security industry where workers are exposed to diesel fumes said, “In the past the HSE has said that diesel fumes might cause cancer. Now they are saying that it does.

GMB members across the UK working in many sectors, now know the dangers of diesel fumes in the workplaces where vehicles are used in confined spaces and the workforce are exposed. GMB calls on the HSE to take immediate, decisive action to safe guard the many workers who will be worried by this report.

The HSE acknowledges that some professional drivers are a high risk group and other workers in construction and tunnelling are also exposed to danger from diesel.

Other high risk groups include railway workers and lorry drivers. These groups must be prioritised by HSE in inspections and for enforcement as it is thought that the biggest risk groups have a 40% increased risk of lung cancer due to diesel exposure.

Lung cancer from diesel fumes should immediately be added, on the basis of this World Health Organisation IARC assessment to the list of prescribed industrial diseases in the UK.”

Contact: John McClean, GMB Health & Safety Officer on 07710 631329 or Dan Shears, GMB Health & Safety Officer on  07918 767781,  or Tommy Gorman, Occupational & Environmental Health Research Group at the University of Stirling on 07540 674347  or GMB Press Office: Rose Conroy on  07974 251823 .

Notes to Editors:

(a) Professor Watterson and Mr Gorman are speaking at a GMB Congress fringe meeting on Occupational Cancer at the Brighton Centre today (Wednesday) at 12-45.

(b) Diesel was previously categorised as a Group 2A agent that is probably carcinogenic to humans.

(c) The reclassification of diesel to Group 1 status means that diesel is an agent that is carcinogenic to humans.

(d) Research showed that diesel emissions are the third largest cause of work related cancer deaths in the UK, after asbestos and silica dust.


RIP Rosalie Bertell, author of…

RIP Rosalie Bertell, author of No immediate Danger, campaigner on ionizing radiation + environmental health, scientist.

Is the HSE keeping women in the dark on shift work breast cancer risk?

Press Release

Alliance for Cancer Prevention

Immediate release 30/5/12

Is the HSE keeping women in the dark on shift work breast cancer risk?

Working night shifts more than twice a week is associated with a 40% increased risk of breast cancer, found a long term study published online on 28 May in Occupational and Environmental Medicine. (1)

Yet the UK’s Health and Safety Executive (HSE) and the cancer establishment leave women in the dark by taking a “wait and see approach” to this occupational risk factor for breast cancer.

The Danish research found that working less than three night shifts a week doesn’t affect your breast cancer risk, but that frequent night shifts for several years may disrupt circadian rhythms and normal sleep patterns, and curb production of the cancer protecting hormone melatonin. Shift work also increases your rate of developing type 2 diabetes and obesity. (2)

In a recent article in Hazards magazine, Simon Pickvance,(3) a researcher based at Sheffield University and founder member of the Alliance for Cancer Prevention, voiced concern about why the HSE presumes to know better than the UN’s International Agency for Research on Cancer.

“Where IARC concluded in 2007 that shiftwork is a ‘probable’ cause of breast cancer in humans, the HSE were sceptical and in a response to Hazards said they were waiting for a more a robust assessment of whether the association can be regarded as an establishment risk”. (4)

Pickvance now feels vindicated, but wants to see the HSE taken preventive action on shift work to prevent future cases: “Shiftworkers, who might have expected early action to reduce a ‘probable’ breast cancer risk, are still waiting”.

But as Professor Andrew Watterson from Stirling University points out:

“Since the IARC listing of shiftwork as a probable human carcinogen several years ago, the majority of follow up-studies on night shiftwork indicate the link between such work and breast cancer in women workers has become stronger and stronger. A public health preventative approach should therefore apply within HSE with greater inspections of night shiftwork and practical solutions developed to reduce the long term risks. It is staggering that the HSE still delay action especially in the light of research that they funded identifying hundreds of breast cancer deaths of women linked to shiftwork and their own assessments of the tens of billions of pounds that current occupational cancer deaths cost”.

Rather than debating whether there is a problem or not, shouldn’t we be arguing about what action we are going to take to address it? As Hilda Palmer from the Hazards Campaign reflects:“Yet again the HSE and UK cancer establishment fly in the face of evaluation by the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) and call for yet more research, do nothing while having a sly dig at women’s lifestyles as a more probable cause. Yet here we are in 2012 and still no preventive action from the HSE or the cancer establishment. Further studies commissioned by the HSE won’t be completed until Dec 2015 by which time another 1,500 women will have died of breast cancer related to night work. ” (5)

The Director of the Scottish Breast Cancer Campaign, Moira Adams expressed concern that yet another study has suggested a link between shift patterns and breast cancer risk and still there are no clear guidelines for women from the HSE. “Whilst diet and exercise, as a preventative measure, receive a disproportionate amount of publicity from government agencies and cancer charities, women are not being given enough information to make an informed choice in this very important “lifestyle” area”.

The Alliance for Cancer Prevention wants to see action to reduce these cases of occupational breast cancer and calls on the HSE to follow the example set by the Danish Government who offered compensation for those already working up to four nights over several years.(5)

Unions should demand effective risk assessments on shift patterns and ensure the least unhealthy patterns are adopted. Workers need information about the risk from shift work so they can make an informed choice about what they can do to lessen the risk. (10)

Women worried about the risk from shift work for breast cancer should contact their unions for advice.

Contacts details:
Simon Pickvance:
Prof Andrew Watterson Stirling Occupational and Environmental Health and Safety Research Group
T: 01786 466283
Hilda Palmer Hazards Campaign:
Moira Adams Scottish Breast Cancer Campaign:
Alliance for Cancer Prevention: M: 07960033687

Notes to Editor:

  1. Johnni H, & Lassen, CF. Nested case-control study of night shift work and breast cancer risk among women in the Danish military, OEM, Online First, 28 May 2012, doi 10.1136/oemed-2011-100240
  2. An Pan, Eva S Schernhammer, Qi Sun, Frank B Hu. Rotating night shift work and risk of Type 2 Diabetes: Two prospective cohort studies in women, PLoS Medicine, published online 6 December 2011.
  3. This man knows all about cancer, article from Hazards Magazine Jan-March 2012.
  4. Straif, K et al. Carcinogenicity of shift-work, painting, and fire-fighting. The Lancet Oncology, volume 8, number 12, pages 1065-1066, December 2007. (IARC Monograph)
  5. Hazards Campaign letter to the Guardian on Shift work and breast cancer.  (letter)
  6. Danish Government compensation on shift work – (In Danish)
  7. Buxton, OM et al. Adverse Metabolic Consequences in Humans of Prolonged Sleep Restriction Combined with Circadian Disruption. Sci Transl Med 11 April 2012: Vol. 4, Issue 129, p. 129ra43
  8. Stirling University – Occupational and Environmental Health and Safety Research Group.
  9. Conventionally accepted risk factors only account for 50-70 % of breast cancer cases leaving 30-50 % with no known cause. The ACP thinks environmental and occupational exposures are the missing risk factors for breast cancer.
  10. Hazards Magazine. While you were sleeping (Article)





Public Health Groups Move to E…

Public Health Groups Move to Enter Fight Over Toxic Chemical #Stryene Used in everything from ice cream to auto parts

Common diseases linked to chemical exposures before birth.

A coalition of EU groups welcomed the consensus statement to be released this afternoon from the Paris conference on Environmental Stressors in the Developmental Origins of Disease: Evidence and Mechanisms

The experts conclude in the statement, that exposure to environmental contaminants in the womb may result in many individuals being more susceptible to serious disease later in life.

“Early development (particularly in-utero) is particularly sensitive to perturbations by chemical exposures with likely adverse consequences for health in later life, including obesity, diabetes, neuro-developmental disorders, precocious puberty, and hormone related cancers, such as of the breast, prostate and testes. Undescended testicles, low semen quality, sub-fecundity, polycystic ovarian syndrome and uterine fibromyoma have also all been linked to chemical exposures” .

See the HEAL, Réseau Environnement Santé (RES), Générations Futures (GF), Women in Europe for a Common Future (WECF), and CHEM Trust information release here: Information release

Harmful household chemicals mu…

Harmful household chemicals must be banned – health before commerce – good opinion piece by Andreas Kortenkamp

Statement of SHARPS hailing KCOMWEL’s first recognition of workers’ compensation of a Samsung worker victim, on April 10, 2012

On 10th April 2012, Samsung occupational victims in the semiconductor industry received a major boost forward in their long struggle. Below is the statement of SHARPS on April 10 regarding the ruling: Read the statement.

Opportunities for cancer preve…

Opportunities for cancer prevention: lifestyle choices vs. unavoidable exposures Cancer Prevention + Education Society

Workers Memorial Day

Each year thousands of workers are killed, maimed, or injured at work. Many live with a lifetime of illness, disease and pain caused by the work they do, or where and how they work or the things present in their workplaces which are harmful to their health. Daily, cumulative and combined exposures to substances, chemicals or processes can affect the health of those working  directly or indirectly with them.

Exposures to carcinogens, mutagens or teratogens in the workplace can lead to cancers later in life, even if the exposure is prebirth. Official conservative estimates that cancers caused by the jobs we do kill one person in the UK every 30 minutes around the clock. Isn’t it time you remember the dead and fight like hell for the living?

For more information on events near you check out the Hazards WMD site.

To test your MP’s knowledge of the issue try the GM Hazards Campaign Quiz.