The death of a chef diagnosed with lung adenocarcinoma has prompted the Ministry of Labor to rule such types of lung cancer a form of occupational hazard, ministry officials said yesterday.
The case relates to a man surnamed Yang (楊), 51, who worked as a chef at several restaurants for 34 years until 2010. He mostly handled meat dishes, involving deep frying, stir frying and roasting meat.
Yang was diagnosed with lung adenocarcinoma, a type of lung cancer, during a medical examination in 2010, and underwent surgery to treat the illness.
Believing that his cancer was caused by long years of working as a chef, Yang applied to the ministry’s Bureau of Labor for occupational disease compensation in 2011.
He died as the result of cancer last year.
The rate of determinations of “occupational cancer” is very low in Taiwan, with only 50 cases approved in the past 11 years, averaging less than five per year.
However, experts say a large discrepancy exists, as they estimate that about 3,000 cases of “occupational cancer” occur each year, based on the national rate of cancer cases.
The ministry’s announcement yesterday marked the first time a case of a chef afflicted with lung adenocarcinoma was ruled an “occupational cancer.”
Despite the announcement, the ministry’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration Director Fu Huan-jan (傅還然) said the ruling will not be applied across the board, and would still need determination on a case-by-case basis.
Pan Chih-hung (潘致弘), researcher at the ministry’s Institute of Labor, Occupational Safety and Health, said chefs and cooks in Taiwan have a much higher incidence of lung adenocarcinoma.
“It is the traditional way of Chinese cooking: The big risk factors are the repeated use of cooking oil, long working hours and insufficient air circulation,” Pan said.
“Especially those working at night markets have long-term exposure to cooking oil and kitchen smoke, and are in a high-risk group,” Pan added.
Government agencies have compiled national records of chefs afflicted with lung adenocarcinoma, and set up a database for epidemiology research.
After two years of research and recognizing that cooking methods in Taiwan differ from those in other countries, the Occupational Hazard Assessment Committee ruled that the direct relationship of Yang’s cancer to his work conditions constituted a case of occupational disease.
Labor officials said that rulings on occupational disease need to remain objective, while taking the collection of medical evidence, cause-and-effect links, exposure to risk factors and individuals’ medical conditions into account.
Officials said that occupational cancer could be due to many other causes, with a long latent period, difficulty in assessing exposure to risk factors and a low rate of diagnosis, while most workers are unaware of their rights and do not know how to apply for compensation.
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