Workplace Chemical Hazards & Bladder Cancer


Workplace Chemical Hazards & Bladder Cancer

What chemicals at work elevate your risk of bladder cancer? 

Did you know bladder cancer is strongly associated with occupational exposure and its history dates back to 1895 when workers at an aniline dye factory developed one of the first documented cases of occupational cancer and led to further studies of occupational exposures around the world. 

It may surprise you that cancer statistics indicate that for males in Canada and the USA bladder cancer is the 4th most common cancer reported; while it is less common in women.  It is also the most expensive cancer to treat on a per patient basis and has a 60-80% recurrence rate. With those numbers let’s take a further look at the bladder. 

Chemical Hazards that Elevate the Risk of Developing Bladder Cancer?

After smoking, occupational exposure to chemicals is the second most important risk factor for developing bladder cancer.  

Exposure to the following substances has been correlated with an elevated risk of developing bladder cancer.  

  1. Aromatic Amines

    Aromatic amines found in inks and dyes. Workplaces where these chemicals are commonly used include the rubber, leather, printing, textiles, and paint industries.

  2. Polyaromatic Hydrocarbons

    Polyaromatic hydrocarbons which can include by-products of burning organic material like soot or coal tar pitch volatiles found in roofing and paving materials. If you work in a place where you might be exposed to such chemicals, be sure to follow safe work practices.

  3. Diesel Exhaust

    Some research has suggested that people exposed to diesel exhaust in the workplace might also have a higher risk of bladder cancer (as well as some other cancers), so limiting this exposure might be helpful.

  4. Smoking

    Smoking in combination with exposure to these chemicals in the workplace further elevates ones risk of developing bladder cancer.

How Does Chemical Exposure Occur in the Workplace? 

In the workplace, the most common route of exposure to chemicals are by inhalation (breathing a substance into the lungs), skin absorption, and accidental ingestion (swallowing).   

Reading the Safety Data Sheet for the chemicals you work with and understanding the hazards you are working with is an important step in prevention. 

Some of the substances that are associated with causing bladder cancer may not have an SDS. They may be found in your work environment (i.e. diesel exhaust) and as a result you should still take precautions to minimize exposure.