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Study links cancer risk, plastics work

Center for Public Integrity

A new study links workplace exposure to plastics to a dramatically increased risk of breast cancer.

A team of researchers compared the work histories of women in the Windsor, Ontario area who had breast cancer against a group of women who did not.

They factored in things like smoking, exercise habits, and family history.

And they found that pre-menopausal women who worked in automotive plastics factories were nearly five times more likely to develop breast cancer.

"We have a public health crisis, and the United States and Canada have some of the highest breast cancer rates in the world. And we need to do something," said researcher Jim Brophy, a professor at the University of Windsor.

He says the findings should be a wake-up call for the regulatory agencies that oversee workplace safety.

"We need to completely, in both our countries, look at these exposure limits, which are not protective," said Brophy. And we have to think very seriously about reducing and eliminating many of these exposures if we want to address cancer risk in general, and breast cancer in particular."

A trade group says the study should not be used to draw any conclusions about the cause of cancer patterns in workers. The American Chemistry Council says the study includes no data showing actual chemical exposure at any particular workplace.

An in-depth report on the study by the Center for Public Integrity can be found here.

Sarah Hulett is Michigan Public's Director of Amplify & Longform, helping reporters to do their best work.
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