Welders reminded to protect themselves at work to reduce cancer risk

Queensland welders could be at risk of developing some cancers as a result of fumes and UV radiation emitted during welding, if not adequately protected.

Cancer Council Queensland has called for renewed awareness of the risks, which follow the latest release of findings by the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC).

The global agency assessed the carcinogenicity of welding, confirming that welding fumes and emissions of UV radiation from welding are carcinogenic to humans.

Cancer Council Queensland CEO Ms Chris McMillan said increased awareness of workplace cancer risks was critical in helping to reduce an individual’s cancer risk.

“In Australia an estimated 70,600 people work in the structural steel and welding trade, potentially increasing their risk of developing some forms of cancer,” Ms McMillan said.

“The study showed that welding fumes could increase an individual’s risk of lung cancer, and UV radiation emitted from welding could increase the risk of ocular melanoma, although rare.

“Welding fumes were assessed by IARC in 1989 and originally classified as possibly carcinogenic to humans, but recent studies confirmed an increased risk of lung cancer in welders or other workers exposed to welding fumes.

“In light of the study, we’re urging welders to follow required work health and safety laws to limit their exposure to carcinogenic fumes and UV radiation.

“Where possible, we recommend welders chose processes and consumables that produce less fumes and radiation, and ensure forced dilution ventilation is in place at all times.

“Welders should wear respiratory protection, use full face welding helmets with UV filtered lenses, and wear long trousers and long-sleeved shirts to cover all exposed skin, to help reduce their risk of exposure.”

Ms McMillan said thousands of Australians could be exposed to cancer risks in a variety of workplaces every year.

“Around 5000 cases of cancer nationally every year are linked to workplace carcinogens, with an estimated 3.6 million Australians exposed to cancer-causing agents at work,” Ms McMillan said.

“Many cases of workplace-related cancers are caused by common carcinogens such as ultraviolet radiation, diesel engine exhaust, environmental tobacco smoke, and benzene.

“It’s critical that employers and employees are aware of all cancer-causing hazards and behaviours in the workplace.

“The most common workplace-related cancers in Australia include mesothelioma, bronchus and lung cancer, nose and nasal sinus cancer, leukaemia and cervical cancer.

“Employers and employees must be informed, and always follow the outlined safe work practices at their workplace to reduce their risk.”

Cancer Council Queensland provides Occupational Cancer Risk factsheets for individuals and workplaces.

The factsheets provide information about workplace cancer risks, how Queenslanders can control them, legal obligations, and where Queenslanders can go for more information.

More information about Cancer Council Queensland, and Occupational Cancer Risks, is available at cancerqld.org.au or via 13 11 20.

For more information or interviews, please contact:
Laura McKoy,
Media Manager,
Cancer Council Queensland
Phone: (07) 3634 5345
Mobile: 0409 001 171