Category: Occupational Health
Concerns Arise Over Workplace and Occupational Health Issues
For better or for worse, work is a major part of the daily lives of most adults. Economic demands dictate that over 138 million Americans work full-time jobs outside the home. That means that more than 66% of all American adults spend more of their waking hours in an office, a manufacturing plant, or another workplace environment than in their own homes.
Ironically, the heyday of gadgets such as laptops and cell phones seems to have ushered in an era of grueling work schedules. These technologies were initially thought to promise workers more freedom and convenience, but instead, the amount of time the average adult dedicates to work is greater today than at any other time in recent history
Although a highly productive workforce may be great for the nation's economy, it appears to be exacting a serious toll upon public health. A wide array of "lifestyle diseases" has emerged in recent decades that appear to be caused or worsened by Americans' work-related stress and hectic schedules.
In addition to work-related stress, many occupational diseases are at an all-time high. These are conditions that are caused by exposure to dangerous chemicals, substances, or conditions in the workplace. This week, we'll take a look at the threats posed by two common occupational illnesses.
Occupational Risks to Thyroid Health
Over the last several decades, evidence has begun to emerge suggesting that there may be a connection between occupational exposure to certain substances and thyroid diseases, including cancer and autoimmune thyroid disorder.
In 2005, researchers at the Institute of Epidemiology and Social Medicine in Greifswald, Germany published the results of a study that found a connection between exposure to occupational hazards and thyroid autoimmune disorders.
In the research, it was found that workers whose jobs involved a risk of exposure to ionizing radiation were at higher risk of developing autoimmune thyroid disease. Female workers who reported a history of on-the-job exposure to ionizing radiation were at particularly high risk of developing signs of thyroid autoimmunity. The researchers also suggested that these results may be an indication that occupational exposure may be the "missing link" that explains the sharp increase in the prevalence of thyroid autoimmune disorders over the last several decades.
Another study, conducted by researchers in the Department of Oncology at the University Hospital of Umea, Sweden, sought to identify the occupational risk factors associated with thyroid cancer. Like thyroid autoimmune disorder, the incidence of thyroid cancer cases have skyrocketed in recent years, prompting some scientists to surmise that environmental factors -- including exposure to dangerous substances in the workplace -- may be to blame.
After analyzing the health data and work histories of a number of thyroid cancer patients, the researchers identified a number of risk factors that seemed to place workers at greater risk of developing the disease. Chief among these risk factors were occupational exposure to electromagnetic fields and industrial chemicals. In addition, workers who had a history of tobacco use further increased their risk of developing thyroid cancer.
Taken together, these results indicate that occupational exposure to dangerous substances or conditions can have a significant impact on thyroid health.
Occupational Risks of Asbestos Exposure
Although cases of thyroid illnesses related to occupational risk factors have become increasingly prevalent in recent years, asbestos-related illnesses have long ranked among the most common -- and deadly -- occupational illnesses.
In fact, an epidemiological study conducted by researchers at the Australian National University indicated that current estimates of the impact of asbestos-related illnesses may be too conservative. The lead researcher, Dr. Mark Clements, argues that current models of occupational exposures to asbestos may have vastly underestimated the public health implications of the problem.
It has long been believed that the high point of asbestos-related illnesses has already come and gone. However, according to Clements' analysis, the peak of asbestos-related diseases may still be in the future. His research indicates that the true prevalence of asbestos-related illnesses may be as much as 30-40 times greater than previously estimated, and most of these cases can ultimately be traced back to on-the-job exposure to the substance.
If you're concerned about the risk of occupational illnesses, talk to your doctor for a personalized assessment of the unique health risks your job may pose. Please check back each week for more of the thyroid health news you need.
Note: The contents of this blog are for informational purposes only and are not intended to be construed as medical advice or as a substitute for professional care. This site should not be used in place of professional medical advice. The author is not a physician. For medical emergencies, call 911!
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