Objectives Although several studies have estimated the prevalence of occupational carcinogens in the general population, little is known about exposure to occupational carcinogens among ethnic minority workers. The aims of this study were to: estimate the prevalence of occupational exposure to carcinogens among ethnic minority workers in Australia; and compare their exposure prevalence to that of the general Australian-born working population (‘Australian workers’).
Method This was a cross-sectional telephone-based survey conducted in Australia in 2013. Participants were aged 18 to 65 years, of Arabic, Chinese or Vietnamese ancestry, and currently employed. Assessment of occupational exposures classified participants as unexposed, possibly exposed or probably exposed to each of 38 occupational carcinogens. Modified Poisson regression determined whether the workers in this study were more likely to be exposed to carcinogens than Australian workers.
Results Of the 749 participants, 31.6% were assessed as being probably exposed to at least one carcinogen. Controlling for confounders, ethnic minority workers were less likely to be exposed to occupational carcinogens than Australian workers (RR=0.88, 95% CI=0.80–0.96). For specific carcinogens, compared with Australian workers, overseas-born Chinese workers were significantly more likely to be exposed to PAHs, Australian-born Arab workers were significantly more likely to be exposed to environmental tobacco smoke, and all Arab workers were significantly more likely to be exposed to silica.
Conclusions Approximately one-third of the ethnic minority workers in this study were exposed to carcinogens. They were less likely to be exposed than Australian workers overall; however for specific carcinogens exposure was more likely, depending on country of birth.
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