Nasal cancer occurs when uncontrolled cell growth creates abnormal cells which divide and form masses of tissue called tumours. Exposure to some agents is known to cause nasal and sinus cancer and smoking also increases risk.
Researchers have confirmed that another cause can be exposure to chemicals in the workplace.
Fortunately, cancer of the nasal cavity is quite rare but research has shown that regular exposure to chemicals and various substances in the workplace can cause nasal cancer. These chemicals and agents include:
- leather dust
- solvents, used in furniture and shoe production
- textile industry
- wood dust (particularly hard wood dust)
Nasal cancer can result in symptoms of blockages causing stuffiness in one side of the nose that will not go away; nosebleeds; reduced or lack of sense of smell or increased mucus production from the nose or throat. You can also have symptoms or problems with your eyes including bulging of the eye; partial or loss of vision; double vision; pain or watery eyes running down the cheek.
What should my employer do?
The Health and Safety at Work Act makes it clear that there is a legal responsibility on every employer to ensure, as far as is reasonably practicable, the health of their employees. It also states that employers must provide information, instruction and supervision to ensure their safety.
This requirement covers not just an employee’s safety from immediate injury but also any danger to their long term health. The Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations also require the employer to conduct a suitable risk assessment of risks to health of the workforce. This includes any risk from any hazard that may cause cancer.
The regulations also state that the employer must identify and then introduce preventative and protective measures needed to improve workplace health and safety. The regulations are clear that the first aim should always be to remove the hazard. If not, then the regulations provide a certain order for them to assess the risk and reduce this to the lowest level possible. This includes substitution for less hazardous substance or process or failing that issue personal protective equipment (PPE).