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March 29, 2012
10 Cancer-Causing Substances Found In Any Developed Society


There are a number of probable and possible carcinogens in every workplace and community, including household environments. The following are ten cancer-causing agents that affect a high percentage of the public. Here's where to find them.



CRYSTALLINE SILICA


Associated cancers:

Lung cancer

What is it?

Crystalline silica is a component of soil, sand, and rocks (like granite and quartzite). Only quartz and cristobalite silica that can be inhaled as particles are designated known carcinogens.

Where is it found?

  • In the air during mining, cutting, and drilling.

  • Household cleaners, paints, glass, brick, ceramics, silicon metals in electronics, plastics, paints, and abrasives in soaps.

Mode(s) of exposure:

Inhalation

Occupations most at risk:

Quarry workers, plasterers, drywallers, construction workers, brick workers, miners, stonecutters (including jewellery), workers involved in drilling, polishing, and crushing, pottery makers, glassmakers, soap or detergent manufacturers, farmers, dentists, and auto workers.


BENZENE


Associated cancers:

Lymphatic and blood-borne cancers (like leukemia)

What is it?

Benzene is a flammable, organic chemical compound that is a colorless liquid with a sweet aroma.

Where is it found?

  • Naturally produced by volcanoes and forest fires.

  • In manufacturing, used to produce some types of rubber, lubricants, dyes, detergents, drugs, and pesticides.

Mode(s) of exposure:

Inhalation, skin contact

Occupations most at risk:

Taxi drivers, truckers, couriers, auto shop workers (due to lengthy exposure to vehicle exhaust or traffic congestion), those dealing with petrochemicals such as gas-station employees or oil-refinery workers, firefighters, lab technicians, and workers involved in making coal or coke chemicals, rubber tires, steel, and plastics.


WOOD DUST


Associated cancers:

Cancers of the nasal cavities, paranasal sinuses, and nasopharynx

What is it?

Particles of wood created by cutting and sanding.

Where is it found?

  • Anywhere wood is chipped, turned, drilled, or sanded.

Mode(s) of exposure:

Inhalation

Occupations most at risk:

Those in the construction industry, and to some extent, those in the logging industry. Specific occupational settings that typically involve significant exposure include furniture/cabinetry shops, timber mills, window/door manufacturers, joinery shops, wooden boat manufacturers, and pulp and paper manufacturers.


ASBESTOS


Associated cancers:

Lung, laryngeal, and ovarian cancers

What is it?

Asbestos is a group of naturally occurring minerals that form heat-resistant fibers.

Where is it found?

  • Naturally in rock formations.

  • In some auto parts like brakes, gaskets, and friction products.

  • In some industrial textiles.

  • In some safety clothing.

Mode(s) of exposure:

Inhalation, ingestion, a bit through skin contact

Occupations most at risk:

Asbestos miners, brake repair mechanics, building demolition or maintenance workers, carpenters, cabinetmakers, construction workers, electricians, plumbers, plaster and drywall installers, auto mechanics.


NICKEL AND COMPOUNDS


Associated cancers:

Lung, nasal, and paranasal sinus cancers

What is it?

Metallic nickel, a possible carcinogen, is a silver-like, hard metal or grey powder. Nickel compounds, known carcinogens, tend to be green to black, but yellow when heated.

Where is it found?

Used to make stainless steel, and also found in magnets, electrical contacts, batteries, spark plugs, and surgical/dental prostheses.

Mode(s) of exposure:

Inhalation, ingestion, skin/eye contact

Occupations most at risk:

Welders, construction millwrights, industrial mechanics, metal spraying workers, machinists, machining/tooling inspectors, nickel refinery workers, iron/steel mill workers, metal ore miners, and manufacturers in structural metals, motor vehicle parts, boilers, and shipping containers.


FORMALDEHYDE


Associated cancers:

Nasopharyngeal cancer, leukemia

What is it?

A colorless, combustible gas with a pungent odour.

Where is it found?

  • Used in the manufacture of textiles, resins, wood products, and plastics.

  • As a preservative, formaldehyde is found in embalming fluid.

  • As a preservative and disinfectant, it's used in soaps, shampoos, deodorants, mouthwash, and cosmetics.

Mode(s) of exposure:

Inhalation, ingestion, skin contact

Occupations most at risk:

Embalmers, pathology lab operators, wood and paper product workers, and health care professionals (nurses, dentists) exposed during use of medicinal products that contain formaldehyde. Also at risk are painters, manual labourers, product assemblers, foundry workers, and those who teach in cadaver laboratories.


IONIZING RADIATION AND RADIOACTIVE ELEMENTS


Associated cancers:

Thyroid, breast, and blood-borne cancers

What is it?

Includes particles and rays emitted by radioactive materials, nuclear reactions, and radiation-producing machines.

Where is it found?

  • X-rays, radiotherapy.

  • Nuclear power plants.

  • Naturally in uranium mines.

Mode(s) of exposure:

Inhalation, ingestion, via skin

Occupations most at risk:

Those who work around x-ray machines (such as radiation technicians, nurses, and some chiropractors), nuclear power technicians, uranium miners, airline crews, and astronauts.


CADMIUM


Associated cancers:

Lung cancer

What is it?

Cadmium is a silvery-white or blue metal typically found in mineral deposits.

Where is it found?

  • Zinc deposits.

  • As a byproduct of mining for lead, zinc, and copper.

  • Battery production.

  • As pigments in plastics and coatings for electronics, steel and aluminum to prevent corrosion.

Mode(s) of exposure:

Inhalation, ingestion

Occupations most at risk:

Welders, plastic processing machine operators, and foundry workers.


CHLORAMBUCIL / MELPHALAN / CYCLOPHOSPHAMIDE


Associated cancers:

Leukemia (Yes, this is correct - these chemicals that are used in conventional medical care to "treat" malignancies can actually contribute to the formation of leukemia.)

What is it?

These chemicals are tumor growth inhibitors used as chemotherapy drugs.

Where is it found?

  • In hospitals and pharmacies where malignancies are treated with conventional pharmaceutical agents.

Mode(s) of exposure:

Inhalation, ingestion, skin contact

Occupations most at risk:

Nurses, hospital laundry workers, and pharmacy technicians and pharmacists who prepare chemotherapeutic drugs for cancer patients.


ARSENIC


Associated cancers:

Lung and skin cancer

What is it?

A natural element that is a tasteless and odorless.

Where is it found?

  • Trace amounts are found in all living matter.

  • Used in manufacturing batteries, ammunition, hardening copper, and glassmaking.

  • Used to make CCA (Chromated Copper Arsenate), a wood preservative that contains hexavalent chromium (also a carcinogen).

Mode(s) of exposure:

Inhalation, ingestion, skin contact

Occupations most at risk:

Machinists, machining tool workers, industrial mechanics, glaziers, welders, miners, auto-body workers, and those that work around copper/lead smelters, wood preservation industries, boilermakers, and sandblasters.

Sources:
CAREX Canada and CBC Canada News


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