Everyone knows that air pollution, smoking, and second-hand smoke cause lung cancer. In fact, smoking causes 90% of lung cancer cases. Lung cancer in general causes more deaths in both genders than any other kind of cancer. And there are many people dying from lung cancer who never smoked. With facts like this, lung cancer awareness is a worthy topic to address.
Lung cancer arises when lung cells mutate. Aside from genetic predisposition, the mutation is most often caused by long term exposure to certain toxic substances, even if that exposure was years ago. Former smokers have significantly decreased their risk when they quit smoking, but there still lingers a chance to get lung cancer, especially if exposed to additional toxic substances.
In other blogs, we have discussed radon, asbestos, and silica, which are all known to cause lung cancer. Therefore, in this blog, we will concentrate on some of the less known hazardous materials that can cause lung cancer.
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Workplace Exposure to HAZMATS
Many employees in the U.S. encounter HAZMATs during their workday. In fact, such workers are more susceptible to lung cancer from these substances than the general population because of the unique situations in which they are daily exposed to dust and fumes containing hazardous chemicals. Smokers have an even higher risk of lung cancer when exposed to certain HAZMATs, since it has been shown that the combination is synergistic and more deadly than smoking or a hazardous chemical alone.
OSHA standards require that employers limit exposure to HAZMATs in the workplace, use engineering controls to reduce exposure, provide personal protective equipment (PPE), such as respirators, and use a hierarchy of safe work practices.
RPF Environmental has worked with many clients to assist with testing and identifying HAZMATs in their working environment; and helping to develop a control program. We are often requested to monitor and record the amount of HAZMATs in an environment during certain activities that could put workers at risk. This allows companies to comply with OSHA standards by providing monitoring and surveillance data, as well as recordkeeping. More importantly, it provides awareness to workers when they are at heightened risk so that the situation can be modified using engineering controls and personal protective equipment, as needed, before continuing work.
Inhalation of chromium compound is known to cause lung cancer. Chromium is an element found in rocks, animals, plants, and soil. It combines with other elements to form compounds in liquid, gas, or solid form. It is used for making such products as steel, chrome plating, dyes and pigments, fireworks, for leather tanning, and for wood preserving.
Workers are susceptible to exposure during the manufacture or use of chromium compound products by breathing in dusts, mists, or fumes in which the chromium becomes airborne.
Hexavalent chromium ([Cr(VI)] is one of the states of the chromium element that receives special attention, in particular during activities such as welding on stainless steel and other alloy steels containing chromium metal.
Chromium in a person’s body is difficult to test since it also occurs naturally in food, although higher than normal levels can be an indicator.
Arsenic is a natural element that can be found in rocks and soil, water, air, and in plants and animals. It is highly toxic in its inorganic form and if enough of it enters a person’s body over time, it can eventually cause lung cancer and other health problems.
Arsenic used to be more prevalent; it has not been produced in the US since 1985. Today, exposure to arsenic in the workplace is still a risk in a few processes such as copper or lead smelting, and treatment of wood.
Arsenic contamination in the environment, especially in the water and soil poses a risk to those nearby. It can originate from current or former industries involving arsenic. The EPA has set limits on the amount of arsenic that industrial sources can release into the environment and has restricted the use of arsenic in pesticides.
Disturbing wood that has been treated with arsenic as a preservative should be done with care. Activities such as sawing, sanding, or burning can release airborne arsenic. The EPA does not recommend removal of this lumber, but anyone who decides to work with pressure treated wood should research a safe approach.
Nickel is a metallic element from the earth’s crust. Nickel is often used in stainless steel and metal alloys because of its useful properties: heat resistance, hardness, corrosion resistance, and strength. It has been shown that exposure to various nickel compounds can cause lung cancer. Workplaces can be a risk for nickel exposure where such activities as mining, smelting, welding, casting, or grinding create fumes or dust containing nickel. Also, people who regularly encounter nickel-releasing items such as jewelry, coins, or tools are at risk.
Exposure of the general population to nickel is almost always too low to be of concern, even though it can be found in air, water, food, volcanic ash, coins, jewelry, and stainless steel.
Call us at 603-942-5432 to talk to us today about hazardous material survey: identifying, testing, and understanding how to mitigate for hazardous materials in your environment.