Sunday, March 15, 2009

work kills

Much of Karl Marx's Capital describes the detrimental effects of the factory system upon the health and well being of its workers in the 19C .

We read that the Danish government has begun paying compensation to women who have developed breast cancer after long spells working nights. It follows a ruling by a United Nations agency that night shifts probably increase the risk of developing cancer.

For years there has been growing evidence that night shifts are bad for you. Among the symptoms: disturbed sleep, fatigue, digestive problems and a greater risk of accidents at work.

The International Agency for Research on Cancer , an arm of the UN's World Health Organisation studies and ranks cancer risks.
Category One risks are known carcinogens such as asbestos. Night working now sits just one rung below that: a probable cause of cancer.

The hypothesis is that alterations in sleep patterns could suppress the production of melatonin in the body. "Melatonin has some beneficial effects on preventing some of the steps leading to cancer," Dr Vincent Cogliano of the IARC said. "The level of evidence is really no different than it might be for an industrial chemical."

Here in the UK, unions estimate about 20% of the national workforce is involved in night shifts .

Professor Andrew Watterson, an occupational health specialist at Stirling University said we are far behind Scandinavia in recognising the dangers.
"I think we can say there is a big public health problem here," he said. "The evidence has been good over a long period of time about cardiovascular disease and night work, gastro-intestinal problems and nights. Work indicating there may be risks in terms of low birth-weight babies and longer pregnancies for women... The damage is there but we don't see it and we don't count it."

We cannot expect capitalism to address these health problems when so much profit depends upon 24 hour working . In many ways , not much has changed from Marx's time . Workers welfare still remains secondary to company profits .

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