Chemical exposure at work is putting Scottish plastic workers at risk of breast cancer

December 7th, 2012 in Health /

A new study published in the journal New Solutions presents strong evidence that women employed in the plastics industry are exposed to workplace chemicals that can increase their risk of breast cancer and reproductive abnormalities.

The study, by the University of Stirling, Occupational for Ontario Workers and the National Network on Environments and Women's Health, supports recent research led by the University of Stirling which reported a five-fold increased risk of developing in who work in the . Together these studies reveal the need for swift regulatory action on carcinogenic and endocrine disrupting chemicals on a global scale.

One Canadian worker taking part in the study explained the way chemical exposures affect her at work: "I don't know if it's from the smoke or if it's from the fumes. You smell fumes, you taste [it] in your mouth, and then you get—it's like a light-headedness, ."

Scottish plastics workers have reported similar experiences when interviewed by researchers:

The study's synthesis of scientific findings on carcinogens and endocrine disruptors is one of its most important contributions. Workers in the plastics industry are reported to have high body burdens of hormone disrupting chemicals such as acrylonitrile, styrene, BPA and phthalates.

Professor Andrew Watterson of the University of Stirling said: "In Europe a number of countries have banned bisphenol A (BPA) and took action to ban baby bottles that were manufactured using the known hormone disruptor.

"But often there are still limited or no effective safeguards in place to protect workers who are directly exposed to BPA (and several other carcinogenic and used as additives in plastics manufacturing) on a daily basis.

"In the UK there are some 200,000 workers in the plastics industry in around 6000 workplaces and well over 90% of the workplaces are in small and medium enterprises. Yet the HSE, the UK enforcement agency, has recently floated proposals to remove active inspection of the plastics industry and only engage in reactive visits.

"Our research indicates the need for more not less oversight and investigation of health hazards facing workers in the plastics industry. Endocrine disruptors may also affect men's health in potentially serious ways and merit serious surveillance."

The European Commission is currently reviewing its strategy on endocrine disruptors and will be proposing criteria for the identification of substances with endocrine disrupting properties. This makes the findings in this paper of particular relevance to that review and the wider debate: www.ec.europa.eu/environment/endocrine/index_en.htm

Provided by University of Stirling

"Chemical exposure at work is putting Scottish plastic workers at risk of breast cancer." December 7th, 2012. http://medicalxpress.com/news/2012-12-chemical-exposure-scottish-plastic-workers.html