Women exposed to hazardous chemicals at work are 42 percent more likely to develop breast cancer, study finds
High-risk jobs include farming, auto-plastics manufacturing, and working at bars, casinos and race courses,
A study released today
(Nov. 19) in the journal Environmental Health found a statistically significant
association between the increased risk of breast cancer among women who work in
jobs where they are exposed to a "toxic soup" of chemicals. High risk
jobs include farming, auto-plastics manufacturing, and working at bars, casinos
and race courses, as well as metalworking and certain jobs in the food
on the study was conducted in Canada, the United States and the United Kingdom,
and the report was compiled by scholars at the Occupational and Environmental Health and Safety Research Group at the University of Stirling in Scotland, including Drs. James
Brophy and Margaret Keith. In addition to their positions at the University of
Stirling, both Brophy and Keith are faculty members at the University of
Windsor in Ontario.
has sampled nearly 1,000 cars since 1996 and has identified a range of health hazards
due to toxic chemical exposure in vehicles. Many of these hazards, including
plasticizers, UV-protectors, pigments, dyes, flame retardants, un-reacted resin
components and decomposition products, may be released through the plastic
product’s life cycle. Phthalates and PBDEs are examples.
"Consumers are exposed daily to the same toxic
soup of chemicals that workers are, and we are greatly concerned that government
standards are not enough to protect us from carcinogens and endocrine
disrupting chemicals in plastics and vehicles," according to Jeff
Gearhart, research director at at HealthyStuff.org.
case control study, involving 1,005 women with breast cancer and 1,147 without
the disease, revealed that women who worked in jobs classified as highly
exposed for 10 years increased their breast cancer risk by 42 percent
cancer incidence rose throughout the developed world in the second half of the
twentieth century as women entered industrial workplaces and many new and
untested chemicals were being introduced,” Keith said. “Diverse and
concentrated exposures to carcinogens and hormone disrupting chemicals in some
workplaces can put workers at an increased risk for developing cancer."
The risk of developing breast cancer was found to double
for women working in the Canadian car industry's plastics manufacturing sector,
the study found. And among those who were premenopausal, the risk was almost
five times as great. Many plastics have been found to release estrogenic and
carcinogenic chemicals and cumulative exposures to mixtures of these chemicals
are a significant concern.
The risk was also doubles for women working in bars,
casinos and race-tracks. “The elevated risk of developing breast cancer may be
linked to second-hand smoke exposure and night work which has been found to
disrupt the endocrine system,” according to the study.
Other occupational sectors with an elevated breast-cancer
Farming, which showed a 36 percent increase in breast-cancer
risk. “Several pesticides act as mammary carcinogens and many are endocrine disrupting
chemicals,” the study found.
Food canning: the risk of developing breast cancer
doubles for women working in the canned food sector, and among those who were
premenopausal, the risk was five times as great. Exposures to chemicals in the
food canning industry may include pesticide residues and emissions from the
polymer linings of tins.
Metalworking: A statistically significant 73 percent
increased breast cancer risk was found in the metalworking sector. Women
working in tooling, foundries and metal parts manufacturing are exposed to a
variety of potentially hazardous metals and chemicals.
"The study points to the need to re-evaluate
occupational and environmental exposure standards, keeping in mind that there
may be no determinable safe levels to cancer-causing or hormone-disrupting
chemicals," Dr. Keith said.
EcoLink — November 2012 An online publication of the Ecology Center