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24 March 2014

Nantes/Saint-Nazaire dockworkers hit by work cancers

The findings of a survey on the health of workers at the port of Nantes/Saint-Nazaire (western France) were presented at a two-day conference organized by the University of Nantes on 20 and 21 March.

The “Escales” survey is the product of close collaboration between researchers and port workers. It originated in 2009 when unionized dockworkers affected by cancer set up a self-help group for workplace health and safety in the port trades (APPSTMP). They decide to survey their colleagues and made the staggering finding that of the 243 existing and former dockers working in 1992 at the ports of Nantes and Saint Nazaire, 85 were reported to be suffering from a serious illness and 43 had died.

The Escales project set about reconstructing the working lives of dockers living with cancer and identifying their exposure to known carcinogens. The findings brought confirmation of exposure to asbestos, pesticides, fungicides and other antiparasitic agents, ionizing radiation, diesel fumes, metal dust, lead and others.

The closing events of the programme brought together trade unionists and community activists, researchers and doctors, government occupational health officials, health and safety inspectors and students, all concerned with the invisibility of work cancers in the midst of a cancer "epidemic".

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