Blog Post #1115 – Cancer-Causing Agents in Workplace Contribute to 10,000 Cases Every Year

Excerpt from the OH&S Canada magazine

Exposure to cancer-causing agents in the workplace is estimated to cause 10,000 cancer cases across the country every year, according to a report.

Released in September 2019 by the Occupational Cancer Research Centre (OCRC) in Toronto, Burden of Occupational Cancer in Canada presents estimates of occupational exposure and the associated burden of cancer by industry, as well as exposure reduction strategies for the most common carcinogens.

A major feature of the report is the evidence-based policy recommendations directed at government, occupational health and safety systems, employers and non-governmental organizations.

“The scientific information presented in this report is based on many years of occupational Cancer research in Canada,” according to OCRC’s website,

Through policy changes and workplace-based measures, there are many opportunities to reduce the burden of occupational cancer across Canada, the report states.

Key findings include:

  • The 13 occupational carcinogens featured in this report contribute to the bulk of the workplace cancer cases reported each year.
  • These are: arsenic, asbestos, benzene, chromium compounds, diesel-engine exhaust, second-hand smoke, nickel compounds, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), radon, night-shift work, silica (crystalline), solar ultraviolet radiation and welding fumes.
  • Solar radiation, asbestos, diesel-engine exhaust and crystalline silica had the largest estimated impact on cancer burden and also the highest number of Canadian workers exposed.
  • Solar radiation: approximately 1.4 million Canadian workers are exposed, causing an estimated 4600 non-melanoma skin cancer cases per year.
  • Asbestos: just over 150,000 workers are exposed, but it is estimated to cause 1,900 lung cancers, 430 cases of mesothelioma, 45 laryngeal cancers and 15 ovarian cancers annually.
  • Diesel-engine exhaust: about 897,000 workers are exposed and every year it accounts for 560 lung and 200 its suspected bladder cancer cases.
  • Crystalline silica: an estimated 382,000 Canadian workers are exposed to crystalline silica, which annually causes almost 570 lung cancer cases.

My opinion

There are 12 ‘Designated Substances’ under Ontario law and they all have cancer-causing properties. Ontario regulation 490/09 covers the following substances:

  • Acrylonitrile
  • Arsenic
  • Asbestos
  • Benzene
  • Coke Oven Emissions
  • Ethylene Oxide
  • Isocyanates
  • Lead
  • Mercury
  • Silica
  • Vinyl chloride

Asbestos is also covered under another Ontario regulation 278/05. “Asbestos on Construction Projects and in Buildings and Repair Operations”

Please ensure that you are well acquainted with either regulation 490/09 or 278/05 if you have one or more of the substances listed above. As well, if you DO have any of the ‘Designated Substances’ in your workplace then you also have to have a Joint Health and Safety Committee.

HRS Group Inc. has safety awareness programs ready to go for most designated substances.

HRS Group Inc. has a great team that can help you with all your health and safety needs. Contact Deborah toll free at 1-877-907-7744 or locally at 705-749-1259.

We can also be reached at 

Ensure your workplace is a safe place.

Remember – In Canada, “ALL Accidents are Preventable”

‘Work’ and ‘Play’ safe.

Daniel L. Beal

CHSEP – Advanced Level
VP & Senior Trainer
HRS Group Inc.



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