GENEVA - At least
200,000 people die every year from cancers related to their workplaces, mainly
from inhaling asbestos fibers and second-hand tobacco smoke, the World Health
Organisation (WHO) said on Friday.
The U.N. agency said every 10th lung cancer death is related to occupational
hazards, and about 125 million people worldwide are exposed to asbestos at work,
leading to at least 90,000 deaths each year.
Thousands more die of leukemia from workplace exposure to benzene -- an
organic compound used in rubbers, dyes, drugs, and pesticides, widely used in
chemical and diamond industries -- and those exposed to second-hand smoke at
work have twice the risk of lung cancer than those in a smoke-free environment.
"Known and preventable exposures are clearly responsible for hundreds of
thousands of excess cancer cases each year," Maria Neira, WHO director of public
health and environment, said in a statement released in Geneva.
The WHO urged governments and industry to tighten safety standards to ensure
workers are not exposed to carcinogens. Stopping the use of asbestos, using
benzene-free organic solvents and banning tobacco in the workplace could help
prevent hundreds of thousands of unnecessary deaths, it said.