IARC Research Highlights Carcinogenic Risks Of Wood And Leather Dust

Lancet Article Publishes Findings Of Working Group


New research has revealed concerns regarding the risks posed by exposure to leather dust during work in roles related to boot and shoe manufacture and repair.

An article in The Lancet journal focused on the work of the International Agency for Research Cancer (IARC) Monograph Working Group, which reassessed the risk posed to humans by a range of metals, dust and fibres.

As part of its work, the body reviewed epidemiological studies and found that sinonasal cancers can be caused by exposure to leather dust and leukaemia can be developed through contact with the chemical benzene.

It also found that a high risk of sinonasal adenocarcinoma was found in workers exposed to leather dust, leading to the dust being classified as carcinogenic.

Further findings included reports that there were links between wood dust exposure and the development of sinonasal cancer, with a higher risk identified in relation to hardwood materials. Wood dust was also classified as carcinogenic to humans.

Expert Opinion
Through our work we have seen numerous cases where workers and their families have suffered as a result of exposure to dust, including one which related to a department store employee in Wolverhampton who developed occupational asthma and allergic rhinitis after being exposed to wood dust.

"The employer in that specific case was required to feed medium density fibreboards – or MDF – through a table saw, without access to suitable respiratory protection and with no training or supervision.

"Research like this plays an important role in emphasising why steps need to be taken to protect people against contact with harmful dusts and fibres.

"We would urge employers involved in shoe manufacture or repair to guarantee that their employees are given proper training, are supervised and have the right equipment available which will ensure they are spared from exposure to dusts of this nature.

"The impact that these types of substances can have should not be underestimated and we would also welcome more research into this area to provide key information which will help to improve health and safety."
Satinder Bains, Partner