Canadian Uranium Workers Study

Status: active

Overview

Canada has long been one of the world’s leading uranium producers. The role of the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (CNSC), as Canada’s nuclear regulator, is to ensure that Canadian uranium facilities strictly monitor and limit the radiation exposure of workers to protect their health.

One of the reasons for this is that radon, a decay product of uranium, is a risk factor for lung cancer. We typically see an increased risk of lung cancer with prolonged exposure to radon in both residential and occupational studies. Even though radiation exposures have decreased drastically in modern uranium facilities, there is a need for more research on the relationship between regular, low radon exposure and long-term worker health.

Past studies found that overall; uranium workers were as healthy as other Canadians. Lung cancer was an important exception where uranium miners had higher mortality rates than the general male population.

The Canadian Uranium Workers Study (CANUWS) aims to measure how exposure to radiation, especially radon, affects a uranium worker’s likelihood of getting lung cancer.

Study design

The CANUWS will look at health data from nearly 80,000 workers who have worked in Canadian uranium mines, mills and processing and fabrication facilities. The study will follow up on workers’ causes of death from 1950 to present and on their cancer data from 1970 onwards. That is about 70 years of mortality data and 50 years of cancer data.

The study plan has undergone 2 scientific peer reviews by independent international researchers. It has also been reviewed by the research ethics boards of Health Canada/Public Health Agency of Canada and the University of Saskatchewan, both of which approved the study as scientifically and ethically sound and free from conflicts of interest.

Study data sources

Historical health studies will be updated in the current study

Nuclear facilities

Saskatchewan

  • Rabbit Lake site
  • Key Lake site
  • McArthur River site
  • Cigar Lake site
  • Cluff Lake site
  • McClean Lake site
  • Gunnar site

Ontario

  • Port Hope Conversion Facility
  • Cameco Fuel Manufacturing facility
  • Blind River Refinery
  • BWXT Peterborough uranium fabrication facility
  • BWXT Toronto uranium fabrication facility

Research network

This study is a partnership between:

  • Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission
  • Government of Saskatchewan
  • University of Saskatchewan
  • Cameco
  • Orano Canada
  • BWXT Nuclear Energy Canada

The research team

Dr. Rachel Lane

Radiation and Health Sciences Specialist, Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission

Ms. Kristi Randhawa

Radiation and Health Sciences Officer, Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission

Dr. Lane and Ms. Randhawa are leading the 4-year study to explore the impact of radon on human health in low-exposure workplaces.

Dr. Anne Leis

Department Head, Community Health and Epidemiology, University of Saskatchewan

Dr. Leis will be administering the collaborative project and conducting the statistical analysis of the health data.

Dr. Punam Pahwa

Professor of Biostatistics, Department of Community Health and Epidemiology, University of Saskatchewan

Dr. Pahwa will be leading the statistical analysis of the health data.

A working group made up of stakeholders with a broad range of knowledge and experience, including radiation specialists, workers, unions, Indigenous community representatives, academics and more, will be supporting the researchers. They will keep their partners and communities informed as the study progresses and will look for ways to keep the process and results relevant and meaningful.

We expect final study results in 2023. If you are interested in receiving updates or have questions about the study, email cnsc.info.ccsn@cnsc-ccsn.gc.ca.

Resources

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