How to Avoid Carcinogens on Ships?

Substances that cause cancer are referred to as carcinogens. In day-to-day life, we interact with many such substances either knowingly or unknowingly. When carcinogens are encountered unknowingly, there is not much that an individual can do. But in case of the former, people can try to ensure that all protective measures are employed to counter the noxious effects of the carcinogens.

Even in the maritime domain, the presence of carcinogens has become a huge problem for mariners’ safety. Considering the gravity of the problem, there have been prescribed several measures which could help counter the threat caused by carcinogenic agents.

Carcinogens on Ship

Before coming to understand these measures, it becomes important to know which substances are harmful and pose a huge threat to the lives of the mariners.

  • Materials aboard a vessel could very well contain carcinogenic agents. The term materials, in this case, include not only the cargo aboard the vessel but also other substances like paints and oils.
  • Paints and oils are extensively utilised during periodic cleaning and refurbishing of vessels. These substances contain chemicals like benzene and other organic compounds. Benzene has low solubility in water, though it mixes in the atmosphere easily. It causes body cells to mutate and not function appropriately, in turn leading to cancerous developments. Organic compounds like butadiene and trichloroethylene also are carcinogens.
  • Another harmful causation of cancer in ships is silica dust. Also referred to as quartz particles, silicosis affects the lungs and causes Potter’s Rot, TB and even pneumonia.
  • While carrying food cargo, during transit, certain foods turn toxic. Aflatoxins, as this toxicity is known are caused because of fungi. Aflatoxins are highly carcinogenic in nature and their development cannot be prevented because of the longer nature of marine transit.
  • Apart from these substances mentioned above, certain variants of turpentine are also carcinogenic in nature.


In the recent years, certain substances have been banned from being brought into vessels by international marine authorities. Some of these materials include asbestos, rubber, grease-removing substances and several other chemicals. In fact, a detailed list is required to be provided by the vessel owner and transporter which contain the specifications and other details about the materials stocked within a vessel. Through this list, a seafarer can be assured of the safety of his life.

Seafarers are required to go through this list so that in case of any problems pertaining to the materials aboard, they are aware of the protection to be taken. This list also gives instructions about the protocols to be followed while coming in contact with the substances known to be containing or potentially containing carcinogens.

  • Mariners need to wear appropriate safety-related garbs which comprise of face masks, hand-gloves and a complete body suit.
  • Apart from this, a major security against the threat of carcinogenic agents is provided through proper ventilation.
  • Exhaust fumes of petrol, diesel and even turpentine could cause cancer to develop through inhalation by the mariners. This is why the vessel needs to be properly ventilated so that the fumes do not circulate within its confines.

The environment on ship is a risky arena to work. But in present times, on account of the developments in technology and scientific knowledge, it has become possible to protect oneself from its many varied threats. Identifying the threat of carcinogen and finding out the most feasible methods to tackle the problem is yet another solution provided by the developments in the marine researching arena.

You may also like to read:  NOx air pollution         Effects of Noise Pollution


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