The Department of Health and Human Services issued the 13th edition of their Report on Carcinogens this week. The list is not just chemicals, but includes physical hazards such as gamma radiation, and biological agents (hepatitis B and C for instance). I decided to take a look at the list and see what I've exposed myself to over the years.
The list is actually split into two categories - those known to be human carcinogens and those reasonably anticipated to be human carcinogens. The former is a rather short list and I haven't worked with many items on it. Some UV lights, some X-rays, some wood dust, but that's about it.
The anticipated carcinogen list is much more exciting to read. Acrylamide, acrylonitrile, phenolphthalein, styrene and toluene diisocyanate. (Note that the list includes "urethane", but they clearly indicate that this is only referring to ethyl carbamate and not the polyurethanes that make up so much of my current chemical life). Thinking back on my school days, I would have to add carbon tetrachloride, naphthalene, and o-nitrotoluene. So 243 substances and I've worked with 11 or them - 4.5% pretty clean living I guess. However, that number is sure to rise over the coming years as more studies are completed.
I can't close however, without mentioning one item on the list that I've never worked with. That chemical grabbed my sense of irony and shook it hard - cisplatin. A drug used to fight cancer likely causes cancer. It does make you wonder...