New interactive eWORK Online tool on occupational exposures now available

We are pleased to announce that our newly updated eWORK Online tool is now available.

eWORK Online is an interactive tool for exploring CAREX Canada’s occupational exposure estimates to known and suspected carcinogens. This new version of the tool allows for improved, customizable queries, and offers more in-depth results than the previous version of the tool.

Results show the number of workers exposed to these carcinogens nationally, by province, by industry, and by occupation for our new 2016 estimates. It can answer queries such as:

  • What are the top carcinogen exposures in a particular industry, such as construction?
  • What are the main industries exposed to a particular carcinogen, such as asbestos?
  • What are the carcinogen exposures for a particular occupation, such as carpenters?
  • How many workers are exposed to each carcinogen in a particular province, such as British Columbia?

eWORK Online can be accessed here or via the Resources tab on our website, and an overview of how to use eWORK Online can be found our videos page. More information about Canadians’ exposures to these carcinogens is available on the carcinogen profiles for each substance.

 

Subscribe to our newsletters

The CAREX Canada team offers two regular newsletters: the biannual e-Bulletin summarizing information on upcoming webinars, new publications, and updates to estimates and tools; and the monthly Carcinogens in the News, a digest of media articles, government reports, and academic literature related to the carcinogens we’ve classified as important for surveillance in Canada. Sign up for one or both of these newsletters below.

CAREX Canada

School of Population and Public Health

University of British Columbia
Vancouver Campus
370A - 2206 East Mall
Vancouver, BC  V6T 1Z3
CANADA

© 2022 CAREX Canada
Simon Fraser University

Asbestos memorial unveiled in Vancouver, BC

A memorial, to honour the thousands who have died and continue to die from asbestos exposure, was unveiled on September 22, 2022, at the Jack Poole Plaza in Vancouver. Magic and Lethal: The Asbestos Memorial, which features the Wind Wheel Mobile art installation by Vancouver artist Doug R Taylor, aims to increase public awareness of the ongoing dangers of asbestos in Canada.

To accompany the unveiling, CAREX Canada and the Partnership for Work, Health, and Safety have prepared a one-page summary of key facts about asbestos exposure in British Columbia, including which and how workers are exposed, what the burden of asbestos-related disease is, and what current research and policy is finding. In addition, asbestos-related resources from the Partnership for Work, Health, and Safety and CAREX Canada are listed.

To read the summary, click here.

To learn more about the memorial, view this video, which was developed by  BC Labour Heritage Centre and WorkSafeBC.

Subscribe to our newsletters

The CAREX Canada team offers two regular newsletters: the biannual e-Bulletin summarizing information on upcoming webinars, new publications, and updates to estimates and tools; and the monthly Carcinogens in the News, a digest of media articles, government reports, and academic literature related to the carcinogens we’ve classified as important for surveillance in Canada. Sign up for one or both of these newsletters below.

CAREX Canada

School of Population and Public Health

University of British Columbia
Vancouver Campus
370A - 2206 East Mall
Vancouver, BC  V6T 1Z3
CANADA

© 2022 CAREX Canada
Simon Fraser University

Carcinogen exposures in young and new workers: Assessing the evidence

Young and new workers are often at greater risk of injury on the job, but little is known about their increased vulnerabilities to carcinogen exposures at work. Our team conducted a review of the literature and used labour force data with CAREX Canada’s carcinogen exposure data to identify workplaces where young and new workers might be at higher risk of exposures. This includes industries and occupations that employ a large number of young and new workers and encounter a greater number of potential carcinogen exposures.

The key findings of this research are summarized below. More information, including additional results and recommendations, can be found in the research briefs:

 

Young workers

Young workers, or those that are under the age of 25, may be at greater risk of carcinogen exposures due to the unique characteristics of this demographic. For example, they have limited workplace experience, may be less likely to ask questions or voice concerns, and often receive inadequate safety training. These and other challenges faced by young workers contribute to the higher risk of occupational injury among young workers and may also increase the risk of hazardous exposures.

Our results show that young workers in construction, farming, and other outdoor jobs are at higher risk for occupational exposure to carcinogens due to the large number of young workers employed in those industries and the higher number of potential exposures. Other industries that employ a large number of young workers include accommodation and food services and retail trade.

Table 1: Proportion of young workers by industry and CAREX Canada exposure data, 2016

Industry Proportion of industry made up of young workers Most prevalent known or suspected carcinogen exposures Exposures-per-worker metric
Accommodation and food services 39% Night shift work
Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs)
Solar radiation
0.35
Retail Trade 28% Night shift work
PAHs
Benzene
0.29
Arts entertainment and recreation 28% Solar radiation
Night shift work
Chloroform
0.34
Administrative and support, waste management and remediation services 14% Solar radiation
Night shift work
Diesel engine exhaust
0.37
Agriculture, forestry, fishing and hunting 14% Solar radiation
Diesel engine exhaust
Wood dust
1.07


New workers

New workers are those who have been at their current job or workplace for less than six months, including those who have changed job titles, and newcomer groups (new immigrants or refugees to Canada). There are many occupational health and safety challenges faced by new workers that may put them at increased risk of exposures, including inexperience, limited knowledge of workers’ rights, and poor training. The newcomer population accounts for a large number of new workers, which also brings unique challenges.

Our results show that the accommodation and food services sector employs a large proportion of new workers. Many of these jobs include night shift work, as well as exposure to known or suspected carcinogens like PAHs, which can be released in the kitchen while food is being cooked. The construction sector is also of particular concern, since it has a higher number of potential exposures and employs a significant number of new workers.


Table 2: Proportion of new workers by industry
and CAREX Canada exposure data, 2016

Industry Proportion of industry made up of new workers Most prevalent known or suspected carcinogen exposures Exposures-per-worker metric
Accommodation and food services 20% Night shift work
Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs)
Solar radiation
0.35
Business, building, and other support services 15% Solar radiation
Night shift work
Diesel engine exhaust
0.39
Retail trade 13% Night shift work
PAHs
Benzene
0.29
Information, culture, and recreation 13% Night shift work
Solar radiation
Radon
0.27
Construction 12% Solar radiation
Silica
Wood dust
1.11

 

Young and new workers may be at an increased risk of exposure to carcinogens and other hazards at work, but the evidence is lacking. Enhancing research capacity, fostering discussion and collaborations among stakeholders, and improving workplace safety training for young and new workers, with particular focus on those that may be at highest risk, may help to us understand and ultimately reduce carcinogen exposures in these worker populations.

 

Subscribe to our newsletters

The CAREX Canada team offers two regular newsletters: the biannual e-Bulletin summarizing information on upcoming webinars, new publications, and updates to estimates and tools; and the monthly Carcinogens in the News, a digest of media articles, government reports, and academic literature related to the carcinogens we’ve classified as important for surveillance in Canada. Sign up for one or both of these newsletters below.

CAREX Canada

School of Population and Public Health

University of British Columbia
Vancouver Campus
370A - 2206 East Mall
Vancouver, BC  V6T 1Z3
CANADA

© 2022 CAREX Canada
Simon Fraser University

New report examines challenges and opportunities around setting an occupational exposure limit for diesel engine exhaust in Canada

Diesel engine exhaust (DEE) is one of the most prevalent occupational exposures in Canada, with approximately 897,000 Canadians exposed at work. It is a known human carcinogen, according to the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), with links to lung cancer (sufficient evidence) and bladder cancer (limited evidence). According to the Burden of Occupational Cancer Study, workplace DEE exposure is responsible for approximately 560 lung cancers and possibly 200 suspected bladder cancers, with new diagnoses costing approximately $684 million per year.

Current scientific evidence supports the need for a more protective occupational exposure limit (OEL) for DEE in Canada. In order to better understand the regulatory landscape for occupational DEE exposure in Canada and identify key barriers and facilitators to setting and complying with OELs, our team conducted interviews with key informants and an environmental scan of OELs for DEE. The results are presented in the new report, “Setting an Occupational Exposure Limit for Diesel Engine Exhaust in Canada: Challenges and Opportunities”.

With the exception of the mining industry, our results show that few jurisdictions in Canada have an OEL for DEE, and none have adopted an OEL that reflects the current state of knowledge. OELs exist for various components of DEE (e.g., carbon monoxide, oxides of nitrogen), but there is a regulatory gap for limiting exposure to the carcinogenic fraction, which is mainly found in the particulate matter.

 

Table 1: Adopted or recommended OELs for DEE in Canada

Jurisdiction OEL Marker of exposure Notes/Policy instrument reference
CAN 8-hr TWA: 1.5 mg/m3 Respirable combustible dust  
BC 8-hr TWA: 1.5 mg/m3 Respirable combustible dust Applies to mines and to to any underground working which is not a mine within the meaning of the Mines Act.
SK 8-hr TWA: 0.16 mg/m3 Total carbon Applies to mines, as defined by the Mines Regulations, 2018.
ON 8-hr TWA: 0.4 mg/m3 Total carbon Current OEL; applies to all mines, mining plants, and mining development in Ontario. Method: NIOSH 5040.
8-hr TWA: 0.16 mg/m3 Total carbon; respirable dust Proposed OEL. Would apply to workplaces in which Regulation 833 applies. Method: NIOSH 5040.
QC 8-hr TWA: 0.4 mg/m3 Total carbon Applies to a mine, as defined by the mining OHS regulations. Method: NIOSH 5040.
NL 8-hr TWA: 0.4 mg/m3 Total carbon Applies to underground mines. Measured as per NIOSH Method 5040.
NB 8-hr TWA: 1.5 mg/m3 Respirable combustible dust Applies to underground mines.
NS 8-hr TWA: 1.5 mg/m3 Respirable combustible dust Applies to non-coal mines.
YK 8-hr TWA: 1.5 mg/m3 Respirable combustible dust Applies to mines, as defined under the OSH regulations.
NWT 8-hr TWA: 1.5 mg/m3 Respirable combustible dust Applies to mines.
NU 8-hr TWA: 1.5 mg/m3 Respirable combustible dust Applies to mines.

 

Diesel engine exhaust contains up to 1,800 chemicals, making it a complex mixture that is challenging to monitor. However, elemental carbon has emerged as the best surrogate for measuring diesel exhaust particulate and several international jurisdictions have proposed or adopted OELs based on measurement of elemental carbon, including Switzerland, Germany, and Austria (see report for more details).

The interviewees identified several key challenges to developing and implementing a DEE OEL, including:

  • Perceived scientific uncertainty and a lack of consensus about the best marker of exposure
  • The slow pace of regulatory change
  • Resistance of employers at the perceived costs of implementation
  • The uneven occupational health and safety landscape that exists within Canada
  • The absence of an ACGIH® TLV for DEE

Most jurisdictions in Canada set OELs based on the American Conference of Governmental Industrial Hygienists (ACGIH®) Threshold Limit Values (TLVs), which has not yet issued a recommendation for DEE. The absence of an ACGIH® recommendation on DEE appears to be one of the principal reasons why there is currently no OEL for DEE in Canada.

The key facilitators to developing and implementing an OEL for DEE the interviewees identified include:

  • Proof that a limit is achievable with guidance and resources
  • A strong scientific rationale
  • A national committee to support OEL implementation and inter-provincial harmonization
  • Available, up-to-date measurement techniques and data
  • A consensus OEL recommendation

The findings of the environmental scan indicate a trend towards the adoption and implementation of more protective OELs for DEE. Based on evidence of increased lung cancer risk at very low levels, we recommend that Canadian jurisdictions move towards an OEL based on elemental carbon of 20 µg/m3 for the mining industry* and 5 µg/m3 for other workplaces to protect worker health.

For more information, the full report is available here. Our commentary that features this work, titled “Canada Should Move Toward Adopting Harmonized Evidence-Based OELs to Consistently and Adequately Protect Workers”, is available here.

*The higher OEL recommended for the mining industry takes into account the feasibility of implementation in this industry that will have particular challenges and is meant as a interim target in a staged approach to eventually have one harmonized OEL for all workers.

 

Subscribe to our newsletters

The CAREX Canada team offers two regular newsletters: the biannual e-Bulletin summarizing information on upcoming webinars, new publications, and updates to estimates and tools; and the monthly Carcinogens in the News, a digest of media articles, government reports, and academic literature related to the carcinogens we’ve classified as important for surveillance in Canada. Sign up for one or both of these newsletters below.

CAREX Canada

School of Population and Public Health

University of British Columbia
Vancouver Campus
370A - 2206 East Mall
Vancouver, BC  V6T 1Z3
CANADA

© 2022 CAREX Canada
Simon Fraser University

Sun Exposure in Outdoor Workers Project looking for participants in Alberta

Subscribe to our newsletters

The CAREX Canada team offers two regular newsletters: the biannual e-Bulletin summarizing information on upcoming webinars, new publications, and updates to estimates and tools; and the monthly Carcinogens in the News, a digest of media articles, government reports, and academic literature related to the carcinogens we’ve classified as important for surveillance in Canada. Sign up for one or both of these newsletters below.

CAREX Canada

School of Population and Public Health

University of British Columbia
Vancouver Campus
370A - 2206 East Mall
Vancouver, BC  V6T 1Z3
CANADA

© 2022 CAREX Canada
Simon Fraser University