LONDON - A British court has awarded over $600,000 damages to the widow of a U.K. cabinet maker who contracted fatal nasal cancer. As a result, Britain's Health & Safety Executive (HSE), comparable to the U.S. OSHA, says it will investigate the case.
HSE has set limits on exposure to sawdust by woodworkers, citing risks of asthma and nasal cancer. Sawdust from hardwoods is considered particularly hazardous in relation to nasal cancer.
Lawyers for the estate of Ken Mitchell, the Canvey Island, Essex cabinet maker who died from the nasal cancer, told the Manchester Guardian Mitchell's job had involved sanding and swwping sawdust in the 1960s and 1970s. A specialist at the University of London said woodworkers are 70 to 80 times more likely to get nasal cancer than the population as a whole. In 2009, HSE reported that the death of a 69 year old carpenter from sinus cancer was ruled an "industrial disease" after a coroner traced his death to sawdust exposure.
European authorities, who also monitor occupational hazards from exposure to sawdust, have issued an advisory study, which says:
Download European study of sawdust exposure hazards)
Comprehensive studies on the woodworking industry in North America, Canada and Sweden show that up to 13.5% of those exposed to wood dust suffer from respiratory disorders. Direct proof has been established of allergens in, so far, over
100 types of wood, both tropical and temperate.
For instance, extensive data and studies have now es t a b l i s h e d conclusively the sensitivity of the lower airways to wood from red cedar, abachi, limba and oak. There are also reports of asthma triggered by dust from pine and cherry
wood, or from some types of African wood. For wood from the silver fir, gaboon, qutibe, macorÃ¨, mansonia and meranti this effect has been proven by skin tests. The same also applies to white cedar and some types of birch, for which specific IgE antibodies (skin-sensitising antibodies) were shown to be triggered.
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