Ontario focuses on work-related cancers

Government investing more than $6 million to help identify causes, preventions

Ontario focuses on work-related cancers

Ontario is investing more than $6 million to help fight work-related cancer.

The funding will support the Occupational Cancer Research Centre (OCRC) in identifying the causes of workplace cancers, preventing them from occurring, and better supporting workers already impacted by occupational illness, according to the government.

“Every workplace injury, illness or fatality is preventable. While Ontario has one of the best health and safety records in the country, we are continuously striving to better protect our workers,” says Monte McNaughton, minister of labour, training and skills development. “We’re proud to fund the Occupational Cancer Research Centre’s research in this critical area, which will support our mission to ensure every worker in Ontario comes home safe after a hard day’s work.”

The investment will help scientists identify and track occurrences of workplace cancer and exposure to harmful substances, research the causes of workplace cancer, and ultimately help improve the recognition of occupational illnesses in the province.

“Solar radiation, asbestos, diesel engine exhaust and crystalline silica have the largest estimated impact on cancer burden related to workplace risk exposure. The highest number of Canadian workers are exposed to these substances,” it says.

Cancer is second in the list of conditions with the most impact on employers’ overall healthcare costs, according to a report released late in 2019.

Several industry groups praised the announcement, including the Canadian Mesothelioma Foundation.

“We are especially supportive of a feasibility study on an enhanced Ontario Cancer Care Registry or a standalone registry of workers who have mesothelioma," says Eudice Goldberg, board chair of the foundation.

Recently, Yukon introduced a new Workers’ Safety and Compensation Act that will cover a broad array of presumptive cancers — including thyroid and pancreatic cancer — for full- and part-time and volunteer firefighters.

Workplace cancers

About 10,000 cancer cases in Canada are due to exposure to cancer-causing substances in the workplace each year, according to the Canadian Cancer Society:

  • About 4,600 non-melanoma skin cancer cases per year are due to solar radiation exposure.
  • About 1,900 lung cancer cases, 430 mesothelioma cases, 45 laryngeal cancer cases and 15 ovarian cancer cases per year are due to asbestos exposure.
  • About 560 lung cancer cases per year and about 200 bladder cancer cases per year are due to diesel engine exhaust exposure.
  • About 570 lung cancer cases are due to crystalline silica exposure.

Cancer is a chronic disease that needs to be recognized in a healthy workplace strategy and very principled human resource management,” according to Allan Smofsky, managing director of Smofsky Strategic Planning in Oakville, Ont.

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