Artificial UV Radiation Occupational Exposures
Artificial UV Radiation Occupational Exposures
Exposure to artificial UVR may be dermal or ocular.
CAREX Canada estimates that approximately 133,000 Canadians are likely exposed to artificial UV radiation in their workplaces. The largest industrial groups exposed repair and maintenance (i.e. welding), fabricated metal product manufacturing, and personal and laundry service. The largest occupational group exposed is welders and related machine operators. Other exposed occupations include animal health technologists and veterinary technicians, medical laboratory technologists, and managers in customer and personal services.
Other occupations with potential for exposure to artificial UVR include tanning appliance operators, as well as workers in industrial photo-processes, sterilization and disinfection (sewage effluents, drinking water, swimming pools, operating rooms and research laboratories), non-destructive testing, printing, phototherapy, UV photography, UV lasers, food industry quality control, and discotheques.[1,2,3]
According to the Burden of Occupational Cancer in Canada project, occupational exposure to artificial UV radiation leads to approximately 15 ocular melanoma cancers each year in Canada, based on past exposures (1961-2001).[4,5] This amounts to 5.4% of all ocular melanoma cancers diagnosed annually. Most artificial UV-related cancers occur among welding-related jobs in the manufacturing, trade, and construction sectors.
Artificial UVR exposure may be mitigated through engineering controls (such as enclosures), however in some applications workers can be exposed by reflection or scattering from adjacent surfaces, a phenomenon that is particularly concerning for tanning appliance operators.
Results show that approximately 133,000 Canadians are potentially exposed to artificial UV radiation at work; 78% of these workers are male. The largest industrial groups exposed repair and maintenance (where many welders are captured welding), fabricated metal product manufacturing, and personal and laundry service (where tanning salons are captured, in addition to nail salons where artificial UV radiation is used in the curing of fingernail gels).
The largest occupational group exposed is welders and related machine operators (82,000 workers exposed). Other exposed occupations include animal health technologists and veterinary technicians (6,500 workers exposed), medical laboratory technologists (5,700 workers exposed), and managers in customer and personal services (5,300 workers exposed). The majority of workers in welding are male (96%), while a larger proportion of those in tanning salons and hospitals are female (86% and 82%, respectively).
The number of workers exposed to artificial UV decreased by approximately 8,000 workers from 2006 to 2016 (a 6% decrease). This was driven by a decrease in the total number of workers in the transportation equipment manufacturing industry.
Workers exposed to artificial UVR by industry in 2016
Workers exposed to artificial UVR by region in 2016
Click the second tab to view total number of workers exposed.
* = < 50 workers
Level of Exposure
In total, approximately 133,000 Canadians are exposed to artificial UV radiation in their workplaces. The majority of workers exposed to artificial UV radiation are in the high exposure category.
Workers exposed to artificial UVR by exposure level in 2016
Level of exposure by industry
Identifying industries with either 1) workers exposed to high levels of artificial UV radiation or 2) a larger number of workers exposed to artificial UVR is important in guiding cancer prevention efforts to prioritize exposed groups and target resources most effectively.
The table below shows the number of workers exposed by industry group and level of exposure to artificial UV radiation. These results highlight industries with the most number of workers, as well as industries with the highest levels of exposure.
For example, in the largest exposed industry (repair and maintenance), the majority (82%) of workers are exposed via welding and are in the highest category of exposure. However, in the personal and laundry services industry (where tanning salons are located), a majority of the exposed workers are in the low exposure category. Depending on the goals of a prevention campaign, exposure reduction in the large industrial group might be a useful strategy, or reducing exposure to those at highest risk of exposure could be seen as a priority.
Workers exposed to artificial UVR by exposure level and industry in 2016
*Numbers may not add up due to rounding
Methods and Data
Our Occupational Approach page outlines the general approach used to calculate prevalence and exposure level estimates for workplace exposures.
Data used in developing the occupational estimates for artificial UV radiation were collected from several sources:
- Canadian and US scientific peer reviewed publications that addressed artificial UV radiation exposure in Canada and the United States.
- Grey literature including technical reports from governments and international bodies.
Prevalence Estimate Method
Exposure to artificial UV radiation is defined broadly as physical exposure at work to radiation in the range of 100 to 400 nm (i.e. the whole UV spectrum, including A, B, and C wavelengths) likely to exceed non-occupational exposure. It does not include UV radiation exposure from the sun (solar UV radiation). Solar UV radiation exposure has been addressed by CAREX Canada and more information is available on the CAREX Canada website.
To determine the number of workers potentially exposed to artificial UV radiation at work, CAREX occupational exposure experts used methods previously established in other peer-reviewed CAREX projects in Europe. A series of steps were taken to assign exposure proportions to occupations and industries at risk of exposure to artificial UV radiation.
- Occupations and industries at risk of possible exposure to artificial UV radiation were identified using any combination of data sources described above.
- The total number of workers in each identified occupation and industry intersection was obtained from Statistics Canada 2016 census data.
- A percentage of workers exposed was assigned to that occupation and industry intersection. Percentages were determined by consultation with existing evidence in the data sources, previously established methods from the Europe CAREX estimates and the expert judgement of CAREX occupational hygienists.
- The number of workers in the identified group is multiplied by the assigned percentage to calculate the prevalence estimate of workers exposed to artificial UV radiation.
Exposure Level Method
To develop estimates of the levels of artificial UV exposure, we used a report by the International Commission of Non-Ionizing Radiation Protection (ICNIRP)1. This report classified exposure to artificial UV radiation into categories of low, medium, high, and very high with respect to the potential for overexposure. The only source classified with a low potential was exposure to general lighting, which we do not include as exposed in our definition of occupational exposure. Therefore, we defined our exposure groups based on their medium, high, and very high potential for overexposure categories:
Category 1: Low Exposure
A group of workers (people in the same job category) is put in this category if the ICNIRP found that there was a medium potential for overexposure.
Category 2: Moderate Exposure
A group of workers (people in the same job category) is put in this category if the ICNIRP found that there was a high potential for overexposure.
Category 3: High Exposure
A group of workers (people in the same job category) is put in this category if the ICNIRP found that there was a very high potential for overexposure.
1. International Commission of Non-Ionizing Radiation Protection (ICNIRP): Protecting Workers from Ultraviolet Radiation. (2007).
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