The Federal Health Minister,Tanya Plibersek recently announced funding of $384,515 to investigate work related asthma and cancer. A team of researchers at the University of Western Sydney will receive the funding which, it is hoped, will shed some light on the issue of occupation cancer and asthma.

There are some sicknesses and diseases that construction workers are more prone to than others because of the type of work they are engaged in and the materials they come into contact with and cancer and asthma are 2 of them.

Occupational asthma is one disease that has affected a number of construction workers. Exposure in the workplace to a sensitizer substance such as certain chemicals, dust particles etc. may cause a construction worker to develop symptoms of asthma after a certain period of time.

Cancer is another common occupational health hazard and is most often associated with asbestos exposure in the construction industry. New research into these subjects will hopefully facilitate improvements in the industry and workers can be better protected.

The research will also investigate the industries the exposures occur and whether available controls are being used, in order to start preventing the diseases from occurring in the future.

This excerpt taken from a post explains:

The team is to be headed by occupational cancer expert Professor Lin Fritschi of the UWA-affiliated Western Australian Institute for Medical Research (WAIMR).

The three-year study will survey 5000 Australian workers to guage their exposure to asthma- and cancer-causing agents in the workplace.

According to Professor Fritschi, work-related asthma and cancer were ideal candidates for prevention, with clear opportunities for policy action.

However, prevention efforts are hampered by limited data on the number of people at risk of these diseases due to work conditions.

The research effort will aim to understand how many workers are exposed to the chemicals causing asthma and cancer, in which industries the exposures occur, and whether available controls are being used, in order to start preventing the diseases.

The data the researchers collect will be used to estimate the burden of occupational asthma and cancer in Australia, and to model the effect of different preventive interventions on the future burden.


Workers should take the following into consideration when it comes to these 2 occupational diseases:

  • Asthma: Look out for some of the symptoms which include coughing, shortness of breath, wheezing and a tight chest.  The fact that the symptoms are worse at work and better when you are absent from work are an indication that the asthma is occupationally induced. Use of dust masks can help with this hazard.
  • Cancer: Lung cancer and Mesothelioma are 2 of the most common results of prolonged exposure to asbestos fibres which can affect construction workers.

–          Mesothelioma, the most common asbestos induced disease is a type of cancer which attacks the lining of the space holding the lungs, called the pleura. Mesothelioma is considered to be exclusively related to asbestos exposure. Mesothelioma may take 30 to 40 years to develop and is the most commonly occurring asbestos related disease.

–        Lung cancer can also be induced by prolonged exposure to asbestos fibres and develops in the form of a malignant tumour in the lungs. The tumour grows through the surrounding tissues, invading and blocking the air passages of the lungs. The time between exposure to asbestos and the occurrence of lung cancer may take 20 to 30 years. Also those who smoke and are exposed to asbestos are more susceptible to lung cancer.


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