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( Article Type: Explanation )

A carcinogen is any substance that is capable of causing cancer in animal tissues. Doctors and scientists do not fully understand how carcinogens cause cancer but much is known about the kinds of substances that cause the cancers. The first carcinogen substance to be discovered was arsenic but many, many more have been added to the list. Substances such as beryllium, cadmium, cobalt, chromium and asbestos have been isolated as carcinogens and the list has grown to include over 300 different major substances.

The importance of communication between workers, interested and affected parties and industry is to ensure that full information is freely available on chemical substances being used in the workplace so that the risks of dealing with carcinogenic substances can be discussed and clearly understood.

Ideally, carcinogenic substances should be eliminated from the workplace. However, where these substances are necessary and have no immediate substitutes, they can be used provided that the users wear correct and complete protective clothing.