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Concerns About a Potential Cancer Cluster in the Workplace
Frequently Asked Questions

Q: Does the PEOSH Program Investigate Cancer Clusters in the Workplace?

A: Although the PEOSH Program may eventually become involved in an industrial hygiene evaluation of a public sector workplace if a true cancer cluster is identified, the NJDOH Program responsible for initially evaluating these concerns is Cancer Epidemiology Services. Their Web site contains extensive information about known cancer-causing agents in the workplace and current rates of occupational cancer.

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Q: Who Can Report a Potential Cancer Cluster in the Workplace?

A: A concern about cancer at work may be reported by a worker, a union representative, or an employer.

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Q: How is a Potential Cancer Cluster Investigated?

A: Cancer Epidemiology Services responds to a report of concern about cancer at work with the assistance of the person who reported the cancers. The following steps describe this process:

  • Initial information collection on the occurrence of cancer and the working population
  • Decision about the need for additional investigation
  • Additional information collection
  • Statistical analysis based on the additional informationIndustrial hygiene evaluation of the workplace

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Q: What Information is Required from the Person Reporting a Potential Cancer Cluster?

A: In preparation for calling Cancer Epidemiology Services, the following information is helpful to gather:

  • The number of people with cancer and the time period; for example, ten people with cancer diagnosed between 1990 and 2002;
  • The types of cancer; for example, colon cancer, breast cancer, lung cancer, Hodgkin’s disease;
  • The date of diagnosis, age, sex, and occupation of each of the individuals with cancer;
  • How many years the persons with cancer worked in their current jobs or at this workplace;
  • The type and size of the work unit; for example, a school with 20 teachers or a fire department with 40 firefighters;
  • If there is or was direct exposure to a specific hazard at work, especially anything that is known or suspected to cause cancer; for example, workers who have been exposed to arsenic for the past twenty years;
  • The type of work activities; for example, welding, mixing chemicals, office work.

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Q: Is an Industrial Hygiene Evaluation of the Workplace Needed?

A: The Cancer Epidemiology Services staff may recommend an industrial hygiene evaluation of the workplace at any point in the response to a report of cancers at the workplace. Examples are:

  • The person reporting the cancers describes a situation in which there appears to be current exposure at work to a cancer-causing or otherwise hazardous substance.
  • The statistical analysis of the reported cancers shows that there is more cancer than expected in the work group.

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Q: What is the Purpose of the Industrial Hygiene Workplace Evaluation?

A: The purpose of the industrial hygiene evaluation of the workplace is to determine if employees are currently exposed to hazards. Recommendations are made to protect workers from current hazards.

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Q: Who Conducts the Industrial Hygiene Workplace Evaluation?

A: Depending on the situation, a worksite industrial hygiene evaluation may be performed by:

  • PEOSH industrial hygiene staff, in the case of public employees;
  • A consultant hired by the employer; or
  • The employer’s in-house industrial hygiene staff.

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Last Modified: Tuesday, 02-Jul-13 10:03:04