Good Science in Plain Language

Radiation and Prevention of Occupational Cancers – Every Effort Counts

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Steve Horvath, President and CEO of the Radiation Safety Institute of Canada.

One of the biggest Canadian Health and Safety events, Partners in Prevention Conference and Trade Show, organized by one of our partners Workplace Safety and Prevention Services (WSPS), has opened its doors this morning May 2nd 2017 in Mississauga.  The Radiation Safety Institute is on the exhibit floor connecting with workers and employers to start the radiation safety awareness conversation.  Only by working together can we help prevent occupational cancers from unnecessary exposure to radiation in the Ontario workplace.

According to the International Labour Organization an estimated 609,000 work-related cancer deaths occur worldwide each year, it still amounts to one work-related cancer death every 52 seconds. Dramatic incidents such as Chernobyl or Fukushima, understandably, attract immediate public attention. What we want to keep in focus are potential risks posed by radiation in a typical Canadian workplace.  Cancers of various types are a potential outcome of occupational overexposure to radiation. Due to the long latency periods, sometimes decades later, the difficulty of connecting individual incidents of cancer to a specific workplace exposure will continue to be a challenge. This makes a proactive approach to workplace radiation exposure that is focused on prevention, not only a safe alternative but a necessity. This is the mandate of the Radiation Safety Institute of Canada and also our passion.

Cancer can be the most devastating diseases for any individual worker and is expensive for the health care system to deal with. According to the Canadian Cancer Society and Statistics Canada, every 5th Canadian will develop some type of cancer in their lifetime. According to recent study published in Health Economics Review early in 2017 titled “Costs of Productivity Loss Due to Occupational Cancer in Canada (…)”, the estimated total cost of occupational cancer to the Workers’ Compensation System in Canada, due to productivity losses alone, between 1996 and 2013 was $1.2 billion, with an average annual cost of $68 million. Another recent study published by MBC Cancer in 2016, exploring phase-specific and lifetime costs of cancer care in Ontario, estimates the total cost of cancer care in Canada to be as high as $14.2 billion (1998).  With such high costs accompanying cancer treatment and the workplace economic burden, and its overwhelming effect on families, it is easy to see that prevention of just one occupational cancer is worth every effort invested into it.

History is of unforgiving. Over 220 miners in Elliot Lake lost their lives to radon-induced lung cancer contracted in the uranium mines where they toiled daily in 1950s, ’60s and ’70s.

“I worked in the uranium mine,” says John Perquin, Assistant to the International Secretary-Treasurer of the United Steelworkers Union. “You can’t see the radiation hazard, so you work day in and day out never really knowing what you are being exposed to unless somebody has taken the time to educate you. The tragedy of the early years at Elliot Lake was before my time, but I know the story well. We saw members die and there was no reason for it.”

Here at the Institute we believe that proper education and awareness are the cornerstones of safety. Because radiation is a silent hazard, the only way to protect workers and prevent loss of life due to excessive occupational exposure is through equipping workers and their employers with knowledge necessary to manage these risks effectively.  Starting today, together we can make a difference!  Let’s test Canadian workplaces for radioactive radon gas.  Let’s train managers in radiation safety program development and implementation. Let’s bring risk awareness to workers who come in contact with naturally occurring radiation, X-Ray devices or nuclear sources.  And remember, the Radiation Safety Institute is your partner in prevention.

 

About the Radiation Safety Institute of Canada:

Founded in 1980, the Radiation Safety Institute of Canada is an independent, national, not-for-profit organization dedicated to the prevention of cancers due to excessive exposure to radiation. Its mission is to promote radiation safety and awareness through sharing science and best practice.

Our free Information Service in Radiation Safety is open for your enquiries at
1 800 263 5803.

By Steve Horvath, President and CEO of the Radiation Safety Institute of Canada.

 

For more information, please contact:

Natalia Mozayani, RSIC Executive Director
Email: nmozayani@radiationsafety.ca
Office:   416 650 9090 ext 28
Mobile: 647 297 5848

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read more