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Last Updated: Tuesday, 9 October 2007, 04:11 GMT 05:11 UK
Workers' cancers 'underestimated'
The Government is seriously underestimating the risk of contracting cancer at work, according to research.

The study, published on Tuesday by a team based at Stirling University, says the annual death toll from occupational cancer may be as high as 24,000.

The figure is four times as much as the official estimate.

Meanwhile, a BBC investigation has found Britain has lagged behind some other European countries in controlling known workplace carcinogens.

For the last 25 years the Government's occupational health watchdog, the Health and Safety Executive, has estimated that only four per cent of cancers are work related - resulting in about 6,000 deaths a year.

'Gross underestimate'

But the authors of the new study say that is a gross underestimate, which fails to take account of new chemicals, new under-regulated industries and the number of women in work.

They claim Britain is facing an epidemic of work-related cancers costing the economy at least 29bn a year and the HSE's recommendations for action range "from complacent to non-existent."

The head of the HSE's disease reduction programme told the BBC that cancer prevention is his top priority.

But an investigation by Radio 4's File On 4 programme has found the agency keeps no complete register of exposures to carcinogens in the workplace, that it has been slow to impose restrictions on some known cancer-causing chemicals.

It has also ruled out paying for a national investigation into health concerns in the microelectronics industry - even though it originally recommended one.

You can find out more about the story from File On 4, 2000 BST, Tuesday 9 October 2007, repeated Sunday 14 October 1700 BST.

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