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Workplace carcinogens

16 cancer-causing agents found in Canadian workplaces

Last Updated: March 20, 2012

Much is still unknown about carcinogens and the amount of exposure necessary to cause cancer, and it will take decades to draw the direct links.

While international researchers continue to probe the causes of cancer, a B.C.-based research initiative, CAREX Canada, is cataloguing Canadians’ exposure to carcinogens while on the job, a little-studied area.

Below is an index of 16 known carcinogens that CAREX found are present in Canadian workplaces. The graph, based on CAREX data, illustrates the number of workers potentially in contact with the cancer-causing agent. Each listed substance has been deemed a known carcinogen by the International Agency for Research on Cancer.



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Canadian workers potentially exposed

Arsenic 25,000
Asbestos 152,000
Benzene (also known as benzol) 297000
Beryllium 3,900
1,3-Butadiene 4,000
Cadmium 35,000
Chlorambucil / Melphalan / Cyclophosphamide 16,470
Chromium (hexavalent) 83,000
Coal Tar and Coal-Tar Pitches 7,100
Crystalline silica 349,000
Ethylene Oxide 2,400
Formaldehyde 41,600
Ionizing radiation and radioactive elements 37,110
Nickel and its compounds 50,000
UV radiation, artificial 207000
Wood dust 293,000

Click the graph or select from the dropdown menu for further details.
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Arsenic

CategoryMetals
Type of ExposureInhalation, ingestion, skin contact
Workers potentially exposed25,000

What is it?

A natural element often found as a white or colourless powder that is tasteless and odourless.

Where it's found:

  • Trace amounts found in all living matter.
  • Enters water or soil naturally during erosion of arsenic-containing rocks.
  • Used in manufacturing batteries, ammunition, hardening copper and glassmaking.
  • Most common use for it in Canada is chromated copper arsenate (CCA), a widely used wood preservative that also contains the carcinogen hexavalent chromium.

Occupations at risk

Largest groups potentially exposed are machinists and machining tool workers, followed by industrial mechanics, glaziers and welders. Other jobs include miners, copper/lead smelters, wood preservation industries, boilermakers, sandblasters and auto-body workers.

Environmental exposure

People are primarily exposed via food or drinking water, followed by living near a natural geological source or site of contamination.

Associated cancers

Lung and skin cancer

Other health effects

Discolouration/thickening of skin on hands and feet; nausea; diarrhea; vomiting; numbness in hands and feet; damage to peripheral nervous system nerves; respiratory damage; kidney damage; cardiovascular damage.

Workplace Exposure limits

Regulations exist across Canada to minimize workers’ contact with this carcinogen. Levels vary by province or territory. Federal regulations apply to about 10 per cent of the workforce, including such sectors as banks, air, rail and telecommunications. More information

(Debra Reid/AP)


Exposure by province

Alberta 3400
British Columbia 3800
Manitoba 900
New Brunswick 700
Newfoundland and Labrador 400
Nova Scotia 600
Ontario 8100
Prince Edward Island 100
Quebec 6000
Saskatchewan 1000
Northwest Territories 100
Nunavut 100
Yukon 100

Exposure by industry

Construction industries *12,900
Non-ferrous metal (except aluminium) production and processing 1,000
Iron and steel mills and ferroalloy manufacturing 900
Oil and gas extraction 800
Metal ore mining 800
Water, sewage and other systems 600
Glass and glass product manufacturing 500
Electronic component manufacturing 500
Basic chemical manufacturing 400
Other fabricated metal products manufacturing 300
Other 6,100

* This figure relates only to workers in contact with CCA, an arsenic-containing wood preservative often used in outside structures.

Other resources

Asbestos

CategoryFibres and dusts
Type of ExposureInhalation, ingestion, minimally via skin contact
Workers potentially exposed152,000

What is it?

A group of naturally occurring minerals composed of heat-resistant fibres.

Where it's found:

  • Naturally occurs in rock formations.
  • The most commonly used form is chrysotile.
  • No Canadian mines currently produce asbestos. Efforts are underway to reopen the Jeffrey Mine in Asbestos, Que.
  • Some manufacturers use asbestos for auto parts such as brakes, gaskets, friction products and industrial textiles and safety clothing.

Occupations at risk

Asbestos miners; brake repair mechanics; building demolition or maintenance workers; carpenters; cabinetmakers; construction workers; electricians; plumbers; plaster and drywall installers; auto mechanics. Buildings such as schools, hospitals and offices constructed before 1980 may contain asbestos insulation.

Environmental exposure

Negligible amounts of asbestos are found in the soil, water and air. Higher than average amounts are found in air near asbestos mines, waste sites containing asbestos or asbestos-related industrial sites. It is presently used in asphalt in Quebec.

Associated cancers

Lung, larynx and ovary cancer and mesothelioma (rare, extremely fatal cancer of the lining of the lung or abdominal cavity)

Other health effects

Asbestosis (scarring of the lungs making breathing difficult).

Workplace Exposure limits

Regulations exist across Canada to minimize workers’ contact with this carcinogen. Levels vary by province or territory. Federal regulations apply to about 10 per cent of the workforce, including such sectors as banks, air, rail and telecommunications. More information

(Jacques Boissinot/CP)


Exposure by province

Alberta 22000
British Columbia 26000
Manitoba 4800
New Brunswick 3800
Newfoundland and Labrador 3200
Nova Scotia 5400
Ontario 52000
Prince Edward Island 800
Quebec 28000
Saskatchewan 4200
Northwest Territories 200
Nunavut 100
Yukon 200

Exposure by industry

Specialty trade contractors 82,000
Building construction 52,000
Automotive repair and maintenance 4,300
Ship and boat building 4,200
Remediation & other waste management 1,700
Architectural, engineering & related services 1,100
Pulp, paper & paperboard mills 1,000
Management, scientific & consulting services 600
Deep sea, coastal, great lakes water transport 500
Other 4,600

Benzene

CategoryIndustrial chemicals
Type of ExposureInhalation, skin contact
Workers potentially exposed297,000

What is it?

Highly flammable, organic chemical compound that is a colourless liquid with a sweet aroma.

Where it's found:

  • Both naturally occurring and manufactured.
  • Natural sources include volcanoes and forest fires.
  • Used to make some types of rubber, lubricants, dyes, detergents, drugs and pesticides.

Occupations at risk

Taxi drivers, truckers, couriers, auto shop workers (due to lengthy exposure to vehicle exhaust or traffic congestion); those dealing with petrochemicals such as gas-station employees or oil-refinery workers; firefighters; lab technicians; workers involved in making coal or coke chemicals, rubber tires, steel and plastics.

Environmental exposure

Tobacco smoke is largest source of direct exposure, but it can also come from vehicle exhaust, and factory emissions. Volcanic eruptions, forest fires and natural seepage of petroleum from underground deposits also create environmental exposure. Benzene is also in foods containing benzoate salts (commonly used as preservatives) and ascorbic acid (vitamin C), as well as in beverages such as liquor, bottled water and soft drinks.

Associated cancers

Lymphatic and hematopoietic cancers, such as leukemia

Other health effects

Inhaling can adversely affect the immune, lymph and nervous systems; short-term symptoms may be drowsiness, dizziness, headaches and unconsciousness; long-term exposure can cause anaemia, nerve disorders and memory loss; causes skin irritation.

Workplace Exposure limits

Regulations exist across Canada to minimize workers’ contact with this carcinogen. Levels vary by province or territory. Federal regulations apply to about 10 per cent of the workforce, including such sectors as banks, air, rail and telecommunications. More information.

(Srdjan Ilic/AP)


Exposure by province

Alberta 38000
British Columbia 34000
Manitoba 11000
New Brunswick 6800
Newfoundland and Labrador 3800
Nova Scotia 7500
Ontario 112000
Prince Edward Island 1100
Quebec 72000
Saskatchewan 97000
Northwest Territories 500
Nunavut 300
Yukon 300

Exposure by industry

Auto repair 60,000
Taxi & limo service 37,500
Motor vehicle dealers 29,200
Public administration 27,400
Truck transportation 16,400
Oil & gas extraction 8,200
Couriers 8,200
Gasoline stations 5,100
Plastic product mfr. 5,000
School & employee bus transport 2,900
Foundries 2,500
Limited-service eating places 2,500
Other 92,000

Beryllium

CategoryMetals
Type of ExposureInhalation, skin contact
Workers potentially exposed3,900

What is it?

A silver-grey coloured metallic element

Where it's found:

  • Naturally occurs at low concentrations in the earth’s crust.
  • Found in northern B.C., southern Yukon and the Northwest Territories.
  • Used in aircraft/satellite structures, spacecraft instruments, nuclear weapons, mirrors and computer/audio components.
  • Used in cars, computers, sports equipment (especially bike frames) and dental bridges.

Occupations at risk

Beryllium mining workers; beryllium alloy production workers; metal products manufacturing; nuclear reactor operation; electronic equipment production; welders; grinders; sandblasters; machinists; dental workers; jewellers; construction workers, electricians.

Environmental exposure

People may generally be exposed to beryllium through burning of coal and fuel oil.

Associated cancers

Lung cancer

Other health effects

Acute beryllium disease (resembles pneumonia); chronic beryllium disease (inflammatory lung disease that causes fibrosis); skin contact can lead to allergic response

Workplace Exposure limits

Regulations exist across Canada to minimize workers’ contact with this carcinogen. Levels vary by province or territory. Federal regulations apply to about 10 per cent of the workforce, including such sectors as banks, air, rail and telecommunications. More information.

(Marvin Fong/AP)


Exposure by province

Alberta 500
British Columbia 500
Manitoba 100
New Brunswick 100
Newfoundland and Labrador 50
Nova Scotia 100
Ontario 1600
Prince Edward Island 50
Quebec 800
Saskatchewan 100
Northwest Territories 50
Nunavut 50
Yukon 50

Exposure by industry

Building equipment contractors 500
Medical equipment & supplies mfr 500
Residential building construction 400
Motor vehicle parts manufacture 300
Automotive repair and maintenance 300
Non-residential building construction 200
Commercial/industrial machinery repair & maintenance 200
Architectural & structural metals mfr 100
Other 1,400

Other resources

1,3-Butadiene

CategoryIndustrial chemicals
Type of ExposureInhalation, skin contact
Workers potentially exposed4,000

What is it?

A non-corrosive, colourless gas that smells like gasoline.

Where it's found:

  • Natural byproduct from combustion of organic matter.
  • Commercially produced to be used in the chemical polymer industry.
  • Used in coated paper, tires, vehicle parts, rubbers, chewing gum, certain types of flooring, adhesives, latex, resins, coatings, paints.

Occupations at risk

Largest exposed occupational groups are rubber and plastic processing machine operators. Others include those in oil/gas extraction, road and bridge construction and manufacturing of chemicals, petroleum or coal, motor vehicle parts, synthetic rubber or resin.

Environmental exposure

Beyond the workplace, people can come into contact with 1,3-butadiene from cigarette smoke, cooking that involves heating some oils (Chinese rapeseed, peanut, soybean and canola), wood burning and natural gas heating. Vehicles emit the substance, though newer cars with catalytic converters emit less.

Associated cancers

Leukemia and cancer of the haemolymphatic (blood and lymph) organs

Other health effects

Cardiovascular effects; respiratory effects; sensory irritation; central nervous system damage; frostbite and skin irritation (from contact with liquid 1,3-Butadiene)

Workplace Exposure limits

Regulations exist across Canada to minimize workers’ contact with this carcinogen. Levels vary by province or territory. Federal regulations apply to about 10 per cent of the workforce, including such sectors as banks, air, rail and telecommunications. More information

(Billy Weeks/Reuters)


Exposure by province

Alberta 700
British Columbia 300
Manitoba 100
New Brunswick 100
Newfoundland and Labrador 100
Nova Scotia 200
Ontario 1700
Prince Edward Island 50
Quebec 900
Saskatchewan 100
Northwest Territories 50
Nunavut 50
Yukon 50

Exposure by industry

Rubber product manufacturing 500
Basic chemical manufacturing 500
Plastic product manufacturing 400
Oil and gas extraction 400
Resin, synthetic rubber and artificial and synthetic fibres and filaments manufacturing 400
Petroleum and coal products manufacturing 300
Motor vehicle parts manufacturing 100
Highway, street and bridge construction 200
Recyclable material wholesalers/distributors 200
Other 900

Other resources

Cadmium

CategoryMetals
Type of ExposureInhalation, ingestion
Workers potentially exposed35,000

What is it?

A silver-white or blue metal usually found in mineral deposits.

Where it's found:

  • Occurs in zinc deposits.
  • Produced as a byproduct of mining lead, zinc and copper.
  • Mostly used in battery production.
  • Also used as pigments in plastics and coatings for electronics, steel and aluminum to prevent corrosion.

Occupations at risk

Largest exposed occupational group is welders. Plastic processing machine operators and foundry workers also exposed.

Environmental exposure

  • Naturally via erosion of cadmium-containing rocks; forest fires and volcanic eruptions also contribute.
  • Consuming contaminated food and water, ingestion of contaminated dust and/or inhaling contaminated air or cigarette smoke.

Associated cancers

Lung cancer

Other health effects

Severe lung damage; kidney disease; kidney damage; bone effects

Workplace Exposure limits

Regulations exist across Canada to minimize workers’ contact with this carcinogen. Levels vary by province or territory. Federal regulations apply to about 10 per cent of the workforce, including such sectors as banks, air, rail and telecommunications. More information

(John Rieti/CBC)


Exposure by province

Alberta 3200
British Columbia 2500
Manitoba 1200
New Brunswick 400
Newfoundland and Labrador 300
Nova Scotia 500
Ontario 17000
Prince Edward Island 100
Quebec 9200
Saskatchewan 600
Northwest Territories 50
Nunavut 50
Yukon 50

Exposure by industry

Plastic Product Manufacturing 12,000
Foundries 4,000
Commercial & industrial machinery mfr 2,200
Motor vehicle parts manufacture 1,500
Architectural & structural metal mfr. 1,100
Non-ferrous metal (except aluminum) production and processing 1,100
Metalworking machinery mfr. 900
Iron & steel mills & ferro-alloy mfr. 800
Alumina & aluminum production & processing 600
Other electrical equipment & component manufacture 400
Others 10,400

Other resources

Chromium (hexavalent)

CategoryMetals
Type of ExposureInhalation, skin contact
Workers potentially exposed83,000

What is it?

Chromium is a naturally occurring mineral that can be toxic in its hexavalent form, which is produced by industrial processes.

Where it's found:

  • Used in the manufacturing of stainless steel and other alloys.
  • Industrial wood preservative CCA also includes chromium hexavalent.
  • In smaller amounts, used in printer ink toners, textile dyes and during water treatment.

Occupations at risk

The largest exposed occupational group is welders who encounter it while welding stainless steel. Also exposed are printing machine and press operators, machinists and pipefitters.

Environmental exposure

Trace amounts are found naturally in unpolluted environments. Most chromium is caused by human activities. It’s commonly found in indoor and outdoor air, soil, surface water and groundwater.

Associated cancers

Lung cancer

Other health effects

Nose, throat and lung irritation and damage; skin allergic reaction

Workplace Exposure limits

Regulations exist across Canada to minimize workers’ contact with this carcinogen. Levels vary by province or territory. Federal regulations apply to about 10 per cent of the workforce, including such sectors as banks, air, rail and telecommunications. More information

(Kurt Miller/AP)


Exposure by province

Alberta 11000
British Columbia 8500
Manitoba 3100
New Brunswick 1500
Newfoundland and Labrador 1100
Nova Scotia 1600
Ontario 31000
Prince Edward Island 200
Quebec 22000
Saskatchewan 2900
Northwest Territories 100
Nunavut 100
Yukon 100

Exposure by industry

Printing & support activities 14,000
Architectural/structure metal mfr. 8,900
Agricultural, construction, mining machinery mfr. 3,600
Specialty trade contractors 3,100
Boiler, tank, container mfr. 2,900
Industrial machinery repair 2,800
Auto repair 2,800
Metalworking machinery mfr. 2,600
Steel product mfr. 2,400
Aluminum production 2,400
Metal ore mining 2,000
Coating, engraving, heat treating 1,900
Other 34,000

Other resources

Ethylene Oxide

CategoryIndustrial chemicals
Type of ExposureInhalation
Workers potentially exposed2,400

What is it?

A highly flammable, colourless gas with a sweet, ether-like odour.

Where it's found:

  • About 95 per cent of ethylene oxide used in Canada is for making antifreeze.
  • About five per cent used to manufacture surfactants for detergents or other chemicals.
  • Small amounts used to sterilize medical equipment and to control bacteria or insects on stored food such as spices and nuts.

Occupations at risk

Workers most at risk are those in facilities where ethylene oxide is used as a sterilant or fumigant, such as hospitals, health care facilities and spice manufacturers. Potential exposure also exists during the production of industrial chemicals, but the substance there is often used in closed, automatic systems. Jobs potentially affected: nurses, orderlies, pharmaceutical workers, soap production, manufacturing of cleaners.

Environmental exposure

Outside of work, exposure is limited largely to inhalation. Sources may include products that have been sterilized with ethylene oxide such as foods, clothing, cosmetics and beekeeping equipment. A minor source is gasoline combustion or cigarette smoke.

Associated cancers

Strong evidence of links to lymphoid and breast cancer

Other health effects

Neurological effects such as memory loss, peripheral neuropathies (damage to a nerve or nerve group); asthmatic reactions; birth defects; miscarriage; nausea; vomiting; cataracts. Skin contact can cause blisters, burns, frostbite and dermatitis.

Workplace Exposure limits

Regulations exist across Canada to minimize workers’ contact with this carcinogen. Levels vary by province or territory. Federal regulations apply to about 10 per cent of the workforce, including such sectors as banks, air, rail and telecommunications. More information

(Dan Kitwood/Getty)


Exposure by province

Alberta 200
British Columbia 200
Manitoba 100
New Brunswick 120
Newfoundland and Labrador 120
Nova Scotia 120
Ontario 900
Prince Edward Island 120
Quebec 700
Saskatchewan 50
Northwest Territories 50
Nunavut 50
Yukon 50

Exposure by industry

Hospitals 1,400
Pharmaceutical and medicine mfr. 400
Other food mfr. 300
Basic chemical mfr. 100
Soap, cleaning compound and other toilet preparation mfr. 100
Other 100

Other resources

Wood dust

CategoryFibres and dusts
Type of ExposureInhalation
Workers potentially exposed293,000

What is it?

Particles of wood caused by sanding or cutting.

Where it's found:

  • Anywhere wood is being chipped, turned, drilled or, in particular, sanded.
  • Quebec and Ontario produce most of Canada’s hardwood and plywood, while B.C. is primarily softwood.

Occupations at risk

By far, the largest group exposed to wood dust is the construction industry. Due to B.C.’s logging industry, many of the potentially affected workers reside there. Jobs that may be affected include: furniture/cabinetry shop workers; timber mills; window/door manufacture; joinery shops; wooden boat manufacture; pulp and paper manufacture.

Environmental exposure

No evidence of increased cancer risk from non-occupational exposure to wood dust such as hobby woodworking.

Associated cancers

Cancers of the nasal cavities, paranasal sinuses (adjacent to nasal cavity) and nasopharynx (part of pharynx, behind the nose)

Other health effects

Eye irritation, nosebleeds, dermatitis, respiratory hypersensitivity, asthma, cough, wheezing, prolonged colds

Workplace Exposure limits

Regulations exist across Canada to minimize workers’ contact with this carcinogen. Levels vary by province or territory. Federal regulations apply to about 10 per cent of the workforce, including such sectors as banks, air, rail and telecommunications. More information

(Graham Hughes/CP)


Exposure by province

Alberta 31000
British Columbia 59000
Manitoba 9300
New Brunswick 11000
Newfoundland and Labrador 5400
Nova Scotia 10000
Ontario 78000
Prince Edward Island 1600
Quebec 79000
Saskatchewan 6900
Northwest Territories 400
Nunavut 200
Yukon 500

Exposure by industry

Building construction 104,000
Specialty trade contractors (construction) 43,000
Sawmills & wood preservation 39,000
Furniture & cabinet mfr. 26,000
Other wood product mfr. 22,000
Veneer, plywood product mfr. 14,000
Logging 6,500
Administrative & support service 4,100
Office furniture mfr. 3,900
Heavy & civil engineering construction 2,200
Household goods repair 2,100
Educational services 2,000
Other 24,000

Other resources

Artificial UV radiation

CategoryRadiation
Type of ExposureSkin exposure
Workers potentially exposed207,000

What is it?

Artificial UV radiation comes from sources such as lamps and sunbeds.

Where it's found:

  • UV-emitting tanning devices are classified as a known carcinogen. Other human carcinogenic connections to artificial UV radiation are not proven.
  • Other uses of UV radiation include electric welding, medical and dental practices, curing lamps to dry paints and resins, and lamps used to sterilize hospital materials.

Occupations at risk

UV-emitting tanning beds are deemed a known carcinogen but the risks of other exposures to artificial UV radiation are still unknown. The international Agency for Research on Cancer plans to review the risks to welders. Largest group potentially exposed are dental offices where UVR is used for cavity restoration, fissure sealing, etc., and commercial/industrial machinery repair and fabricated metal products manufacture (which includes welders). Tanning salon workers may also be affected due to UVR being used in the curing of fingernail gels.

Environmental exposure

Most non-workers are exposed to artificial UV via fake tanning.

Associated cancers

Skin (melanoma)

Other health effects

Brief exposure: skin damage such as burning, fragility and scarring. Long-term exposure: may break down collagen and decrease skin elasticity

Workplace Exposure limits

The Canada Labour Code sets out artificial UV exposure limit at different values, depending on the wavelengths. The federal regulations are in effect for all provinces and territories. More information

(Peter Andrews/Reuters)


Exposure by province

Alberta 33000
British Columbia 25000
Manitoba 7300
New Brunswick 4100
Newfoundland and Labrador 2800
Nova Scotia 5200
Ontario 73000
Prince Edward Island 700
Quebec 48000
Saskatchewan 7400
Northwest Territories 200
Nunavut 200
Yukon 50

Exposure by industry

Offices of dentists 48,000
Commercial and industrial machinery and equipment repair and maintenance 22,000
Fabricated metal product mfr. 21,000
Hospitals 14,000
Transportation equipment mfr. 14,000
Personal care services 13,000
Machinery manufacturing 12,000
Other professional, scientific and technical services 8,100
Automotive repair and maintenance 4,200
Medical equipment and supplies mfr. 3,700
Primary metal manufacturing 3,400
Water, sewage & other systems 2,600
Support activities for mining and oil and gas extraction 2,600
Offices of physicians 1,900
Other 37,000

Nickel and its compounds

CategoryMetals
Type of ExposureInhalation, ingestion, skin/eye contact
Workers potentially exposed50,000

What is it?

Metallic nickel, a possible carcinogen, is a silvery, hard metal or grey powder. Nickel compounds, a known carcinogen, tend to be green to black, but yellow when heated.

Where it's found:

  • Because it's hard, strong and resistant to corrosion and heat, it makes a great alloy.
  • Mostly used to make stainless steel, but also appears in magnets, electrical contacts, batteries, spark plugs and surgical/dental prostheses.

Occupations at risk

Welders are the largest exposed group, followed by construction millwrights and industrial mechanics. Other important groups include plating, metal spraying, machinists and machining/tooling inspectors. Also includes nickel refinery workers; iron/steel mill workers; metal ore miners; manufacturers in structural metals, motor vehicle parts, boilers & shipping containers.

Environmental exposure

Nearly all water supplies and most foods in Canada contain small amounts of nickel. It's released by volcanoes and found naturally in soil.

Associated cancers

Lung, nasal and paranasal sinus (adjacent to nasal cavity) cancer

Other health effects

Working with nickel can cause chronic bronchitis, decreased lung function, renal problems, though it’s not clear if these effects are due solely to nickel or other substances. It can also cause skin inflammation, usually from jewellery or other products.

Workplace Exposure limits

Regulations exist across Canada to minimize workers’ contact with this carcinogen. Levels vary by province or territory. Federal regulations apply to about 10 per cent of the workforce, including such sectors as banks, air, rail and telecommunications. Maximum exposure limits also vary by type of exposure. More information

(Yusuf Ahmad/Reuters)


Exposure by province

Alberta 7800
British Columbia 4900
Manitoba 1800
New Brunswick 1100
Newfoundland and Labrador 800
Nova Scotia 1000
Ontario 18000
Prince Edward Island 100
Quebec 12000
Saskatchewan 1800
Northwest Territories 100
Nunavut 100
Yukon 100

Exposure by industry

Commercial & industrial machinery & equipment repair & maintenance 5,000
Architectural, structural metals mfr 3,000
Specialty trade contractors 2,900
Boiler, tank & shipping container mfr 2,000
Metal ore mining 1,800
Motor vehicle parts manufacturing 1,700
Machine shops, turned product, and screw, nut and bolt manufacturing 1,500
Coating, engraving, heat treating and allied activities 1,500
Iron & steel mills & ferro-alloy mfr. 1,200
Non-ferrous metal production and processing 1,000
Other 28,000

Other resources

Ionizing radiation and radioactive elements

CategoryRadiation
Type of ExposureInhalation, ingestion, via skin
Workers potentially exposed37,110

What is it?

Particles and rays emitted by radioactive materials, nuclear reactions and radiation-producing machines. X- and gamma-rays penetrate the skin and organs. Alpha and beta particles are dangerous when breathed or ingested.

Where it's found:

  • Major sources of ionizing radiation exposure include its use in the medical industry, natural sources (such as uranium mines) and nuclear power generation
  • Used in nuclear power plants and hospitals in X-rays or radiotherapy.

Occupations at risk

Those who work around X-ray machines, such as radiation technicians, nurses and others; nuclear power technicians; uranium miners; airline crews; astronauts.

Environmental exposure

Background doses come from radioactive elements in the earth's crust and from cosmic radiation. X-rays can also be a source, as can radiation from nuclear accidents.

Associated cancers

Thyroid and breast cancer and leukemia

Other health effects

Skin burns, hair loss, birth defects, cancer, mental retardation and death. Prenatal exposure may lead to miscarriage, birth defects, hereditary effects and a higher risk of later cancers.

Workplace Exposure limits

The Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission limits workers’ exposure to 50 mSv (millisieverts) in a single year and 100 mSv over five years. Pregnant workers are limited to 4 mSv for the duration of their pregnancy. More information

(Darren Calabrese/CP)


Exposure by province

Alberta 4500
British Columbia 2000
Manitoba 950
New Brunswick 1050
Newfoundland and Labrador 340
Nova Scotia 500
Ontario 17550
Prince Edward Island 50
Quebec 7250
Saskatchewan 2800
Northwest Territories 50
Nunavut 50
Yukon 20

Exposure by industry

Medicine 11,500
Nuclear power 8,900
Professional, scientific services 7,300
Uranium mining 2,000
Public administration 900
Other 5,900

Chlorambucil / Melphalan / Cyclophosphamide

CategoryPharmaceuticals
Type of ExposureInhalation, ingestion, skin contact
Workers potentially exposed16,470

What is it?

Tumour growth inhibitors used as chemotherapy drugs.

Where it's found:

  • In hospitals and pharmacies where tumours are treated.

Occupations at risk

Nurses; hospital laundry workers; pharmacy technicians and pharmacists who prepare chemotherapeutics for cancer patients.

Environmental exposure

No exposure to the general public outside of doses given to chemotherapy patients.

Associated cancers

Leukemia

Other health effects

Nausea; hair loss; temporary sterility; bone marrow suppression; gastrointestinal problems; hematological changes (including anemia and a lowered white blood cell count).

Workplace Exposure limits

No occupational exposure limits established in Canada or internationally.

(Katarina Stoltz/Reuters)


Exposure by province

Alberta 1810
British Columbia 2020
Manitoba 750
New Brunswick 570
Newfoundland and Labrador 380
Nova Scotia 580
Ontario 5800
Prince Edward Island 120
Quebec 3700
Saskatchewan 670
Northwest Territories 90
Nunavut Unknown
Yukon <30

Exposure by industry

Coal Tar and Coal-Tar Pitches

CategoryIndustrial chemicals
Type of ExposureInhalation, skin contact, ingestion
Workers potentially exposed7,100

What is it?

Coal tar and coal tar pitch are typically thick black or dark-brown liquids or semisolids.

Where it's found:

  • Lotions, cosmetics, ointments and pharmaceutical products.
  • Shampoos used to treat skin conditions like psoriasis, eczema and dandruff.
  • Synthetic dyes, denatured (industrial) alcohol, animal and bird repellents.

Occupations at risk

Roofers; pavers; road, bridge and building construction workers; glassmakers; chemical manufacturing workers; paint and adhesive manufacturing workers.

Environmental exposure

Anyone working or living near plants using coal tar or coal-tar pitches have a higher risk of environmental contamination. Soil and groundwater can be contaminated.

Associated cancers

Skin, lung and scrotal cancer

Other health effects

Skin, eye and respiratory tract irritation

Workplace Exposure limits

Regulations exist across Canada to minimize workers’ contact with this carcinogen. Levels vary by province or territory. Federal regulations apply to about 10 per cent of the workforce, including such sectors as banks, air, rail and telecommunications. More information

(CP)


Exposure by province

Alberta 700
British Columbia 900
Manitoba 100
New Brunswick 200
Newfoundland and Labrador 100
Nova Scotia 100
Ontario 2100
Prince Edward Island 50
Quebec 2500
Saskatchewan 200
Northwest Territories 50
Nunavut 50
Yukon 50

Exposure by industry

Alumina and aluminum production and processing 2,000
Foundation, structure, building, exterior contractors 1,300
Highway, street and bridge construction 1,300
Petroleum and coal products manufacturing 600
Building construction (residential and nonresidential) 300
Basic chemical manufacturing 300
Glass and glass products manufacturing 200
Paint, coating and adhesive manufacturing 100
Others 400

Other resources

Crystalline silica

CategoryFibres and dusts
Type of ExposureInhalation
Workers potentially exposed349,000

What is it?

A basic component of soil, sand and rocks, like granite and quartzite. Only respirable quartz and cristobalite silica are designated known carcinogens.

Where it's found:

  • One of the most abundant minerals on earth.
  • Health issues arise when particles that can be inhaled are spread through the air during mining, cutting and drilling.
  • Household cleaners, paints, glass, brick, ceramics, silicon metals in electronics, plastics, paints, abrasives in soaps can contain silica.
  • Used in filtration for municipal water and sewage treatment.

Occupations at risk

Quarry workers; plasterers; drywallers; construction workers; brick workers; miners; stonecutters (including jewellery); workers involved in drilling, polishing, crushing; pottery makers; glassmakers; soap or detergent manufacturers; farmers; dentists; auto workers.

Environmental exposure

It’s not considered an environmental carcinogen. Exposure would primarily be from activity involving the movement of earth or sand stirring up airborne pollutants.

Associated cancers

Lung cancer

Other health effects

Silicosis (a scarring or inflammation of the lungs caused by inhaling silica dust), pulmonary tuberculosis, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, and autoimmune disease (rheumatoid arthritis).

Workplace Exposure limits

Regulations exist across Canada to minimize workers’ contact with this carcinogen. Levels vary by province or territory. Federal regulations apply to about 10 per cent of the workforce, including such sectors as banks, air, rail and telecommunications. More information

(Mike Cassese/Reuters)


Exposure by province

Alberta 48000
British Columbia 48000
Manitoba 12000
New Brunswick 9100
Newfoundland and Labrador 6500
Nova Scotia 9500
Ontario 129000
Prince Edward Island 1700
Quebec 71000
Saskatchewan 11000
Northwest Territories 700
Nunavut 400
Yukon 500

Exposure by industry

Specialty trade contractors (construction) 140,000
Building construction 68,000
Heavy & civil engineering construction 31,000
Metal ore mining 9,900
Cement & concrete product mfr. 8,800
Support activities for road transport 7,300
Plastic product mfr. 7,100
Truck transportation 6,900
Highway, street, bridge construction 6,400
Iron & steel mills 4,900
Glass & glass product mfr. 4,800
Non-metallic mineral mining 4,200
Other 50,000

Formaldehyde

CategoryIndustrial chemical
Type of ExposureInhalation, ingestion, skin contact
Workers potentially exposed41,600

What is it?

A colourless, combustible gas with a pungent odour.

Where it's found:

  • Used in the manufacture of textiles, resins, wood products and plastics.
  • A disinfectant and preservative found in embalming fluid and used as an antibacterial agent in soaps, shampoos, deodorants, mouthwash and cosmetics.

Occupations at risk

Those with the most exposure include embalmers, pathology lab operators, wood and paper product workers and health care professionals (nurses, dentists) exposed during use of medicinal products.

Also at risk are painters, manual labourers, product assemblers and foundry workers.

Environmental exposure

Combustion and combustion by-products from power plants, refineries, wood stoves, cigarettes, kerosene heaters and forest fires are the main source. Other sources include off-gassing from formaldehyde-containing products, such as leather tanning agents, wood products resin-treated fabrics and paper.

Associated cancers

Nasopharyngeal cancer and leukemia

Other health effects

Suspected links to childhood asthma and reproductive problems in women. Even at very low levels of exposure it irritates eyes and breathing passages.

Workplace Exposure limits

Regulations exist across Canada to minimize workers’ contact with this carcinogen. Levels vary by province or territory. Federal regulations apply to a portion of the workforce, including such sectors as banks, air, rail and telecommunications. More information

(Jeff Bassett/CP)


Exposure by province

Alberta 3,200
British Columbia 5,500
Manitoba 2,600
New Brunswick 800
Newfoundland and Labrador 300
Nova Scotia 800
Ontario 16,000
Prince Edward Island 200
Quebec 11,000
Saskatchewan 700
Northwest Territories < 50
Nunavut < 50
Yukon < 50

Exposure by industry

Other wood product mfr. 12,000
Furniture & cabinet making 7,300
Construction 2,600
Hospitals 2,400
Foundries 2,000
Professional, scientific services 1,800
Office furniture mfr. 1,600
Veneer, plywood mfr. 800
Metalworking machinery mfr. 800
Furniture stores 600
Educational services 500
Plastic product mfr. 500
Public administration 500
Other 8,200

Other resources

Administration

 

This is not a conclusive list of industries. Explore the carcinogens for more detailed descriptions of the jobs potentially affected. Numbers of workers exposed by industry could not be calculated at this time.

Agriculture

 

This is not a conclusive list of industries. Explore the carcinogens for more detailed descriptions of the jobs potentially affected. Numbers of workers exposed by industry could not be calculated at this time.

Architecture

 

This is not a conclusive list of industries. Explore the carcinogens for more detailed descriptions of the jobs potentially affected. Numbers of workers exposed by industry could not be calculated at this time.

Automotive

 

This is not a conclusive list of industries. Explore the carcinogens for more detailed descriptions of the jobs potentially affected. Numbers of workers exposed by industry could not be calculated at this time.

Chemical manufacturing

 

This is not a conclusive list of industries. Explore the carcinogens for more detailed descriptions of the jobs potentially affected. Numbers of workers exposed by industry could not be calculated at this time.

Construction

 

This is not a conclusive list of industries. Explore the carcinogens for more detailed descriptions of the jobs potentially affected. Numbers of workers exposed by industry could not be calculated at this time.

Machinery manufacturing

 

This is not a conclusive list of industries. Explore the carcinogens for more detailed descriptions of the jobs potentially affected. Numbers of workers exposed by industry could not be calculated at this time.

Transportation

 

This is not a conclusive list of industries. Explore the carcinogens for more detailed descriptions of the jobs potentially affected. Numbers of workers exposed by industry could not be calculated at this time.

Wood product manufacturing

 

This is not a conclusive list of industries. Explore the carcinogens for more detailed descriptions of the jobs potentially affected. Numbers of workers exposed by industry could not be calculated at this time.

Road/bridge construction

 

This is not a conclusive list of industries. Explore the carcinogens for more detailed descriptions of the jobs potentially affected. Numbers of workers exposed by industry could not be calculated at this time.

Dentistry

 

This is not a conclusive list of industries. Explore the carcinogens for more detailed descriptions of the jobs potentially affected. Numbers of workers exposed by industry could not be calculated at this time.

Medical

 

This is not a conclusive list of industries. Explore the carcinogens for more detailed descriptions of the jobs potentially affected. Numbers of workers exposed by industry could not be calculated at this time.

Mining

 

This is not a conclusive list of industries. Explore the carcinogens for more detailed descriptions of the jobs potentially affected. Numbers of workers exposed by industry could not be calculated at this time.

Logging

 

This is not a conclusive list of industries. Explore the carcinogens for more detailed descriptions of the jobs potentially affected. Numbers of workers exposed by industry could not be calculated at this time.

Steel production

 

This is not a conclusive list of industries. Explore the carcinogens for more detailed descriptions of the jobs potentially affected. Numbers of workers exposed by industry could not be calculated at this time.

Nuclear power

 

This is not a conclusive list of industries. Explore the carcinogens for more detailed descriptions of the jobs potentially affected. Numbers of workers exposed by industry could not be calculated at this time.

Food industry

 

This is not a conclusive list of industries. Explore the carcinogens for more detailed descriptions of the jobs potentially affected. Numbers of workers exposed by industry could not be calculated at this time.

Rubber and plastic manufacturing

 

This is not a conclusive list of industries. Explore the carcinogens for more detailed descriptions of the jobs potentially affected. Numbers of workers exposed by industry could not be calculated at this time.

Personal care services

 

This is not a conclusive list of industries. Explore the carcinogens for more detailed descriptions of the jobs potentially affected. Numbers of workers exposed by industry could not be calculated at this time.


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