A recent article in the New York Times concerns a study by the World Health Organization has identified a link between diesel fumes and certain cancers. The article notes that a study conducted by the chief of environmental epidemiology for the National Cancer Institute found that miners with heavy exposure to diesel fumes had seven times the risk of developing lung cancer as nonsmokers without the exposure.
Bladder cancer was also identified as potential risk from excessive exposure to diesel fumes.
The article did note that the levels of exposure and content of the fumes (whether from an older or newer engine) have a direct impact on the link between cancer and the diesel fumes.
Occupational diseases are a real risk to workers in Missouri and Illinois. Zero exposure to certain chemicals, fumes or by-products is unlikely - even in the modern workplace and factories. Managing that risk by reducing exposure times, levels and particulates in the fumes is an important step in making the work place safer for employees.
On September 2, 2011, the New York Times reports that a study released in The Lancet, a British Medical Journal, found that the exposure to the World Trade Center dust and smoke following the attacks "increased likelihood for the development of any type of cancer" according to the physician who led the study.
Statistically, the study reports a 19 percent increased risk to develop cancer of the nearly 10,000 firefighters included in the study.
At a minimum, the study will lead to continued investigation of the hazards faced by firefighters at the site. The further investigation is important because, according to the article, cancer is currently not a covered illness under the 911 Compensation Act.
If a firefighter was diagnosed with cancer, the responder could file a workers compensation case. However, whether property owners or contractors would be responsible for the injuries is another question.
According to the Missouri Department of Labor 2010 Annual Report, of the over ten thousand work related injuries reported each year, 1,226 of these claims were filed for occupational diseases. Almost 23% of those claims were for carpal tunnel injuries. The majority of these claims result from employees in the manufacturing sector. The remaining four in the top five industries affected were public administration, retail trade, construction and health care/ social assistance.
The prevalence in these jobs in Missouri may explain the difference between the incidence of carpal tunnel in American workers versus Swedish workers. According to a Reuters article on May 25, 2011, a study published in the Archives of Internal Medicine found an increased incidence of carpal tunnel diagnosis in the US versus other countries. One component of the study found that a county in Minnesota had double the rate to a comparable region in Sweden. The head of the study, Dr. Isam Atroshi acknowledged that medical and social factors could explain the difference, including obesity and work as factors.
These studies and many others before it present problems for some workers seeking benefits under Missouri and Illinois workers compensation laws. In some cases, claims are contested by employers because medical research has identified a number of "risk factors" that are associated with carpal tunnel syndrome. These risk factors include obesity, age, gender, diabetes and thyroid conditions.
Often, the claims turn on the medical evidence in each specific case. For example, while a person with diabetes may be more likely to suffer carpal tunnel syndrome, diabetes will not - as a rule - prevent the employee from establishing that work is a prevailing factor in causing the condition. this becomes the role of the medical expert in explaining the difference. As a result, the difficulty in processing these claims is making the distinction between a risk factor and a casual factor.
If you are interested, here is a video demonstrating a carpal tunnel surgery.