Estimate of Occupational Exposure to Carcinogens among Migrant Workers in the United Arab Emirates: A Cross-Sectional Study

Iffat Elbarazi, Sonia El-Zaemey, Basema Saddik, Balázs Ádám, Mohamed El Sadig, Aminu S. Abdullahi, Lin Fritschi, Mohamud Sheek-Hussein

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)


Occupational illnesses, such as cancer, cause more deaths each year than occupational accidents. Occupational carcinogens include physical, chemical, biological and organizational hazards. In the United Arab Emirates (UAE), migrant workers account for 80% of labor. Being sometimes employed as unskilled workers and more willing to work in demanding jobs, their vulnerability and exposure may be increased. This study aimed to estimate the prevalence of occupational exposure to workplace carcinogens among migrant workers in the UAE. A sample of employees working in construction, cleaning, dry cleaning, mechanic workshops and hair salons were recruited and interviewed. Using OccIDEAS (an online assessment tool), participants were asked questions about their demographics, work history and regular tasks. Exposure to various carcinogens was estimated using the in-built algorithms of OccIDEAS. A sample of 1778 workers was included. The sample consisted of workers from Bangladesh (19.2%), India (31%), Nepal (4.7%), Pakistan (29.9%) and the Philippines (4.8%), with the rest from other nationalities. Overall, the prevalence of probable exposure was considerable, with the highest among drivers (96%) and the lowest among laundry workers (52%). Moderate to high exposure was found to 20 different carcinogens. Self-rated health among those who were exposed to carcinogens was significantly lower than among those not exposed (AOR = 0.783, 95% CI [0.638–0.961]). Exposure to several different carcinogens is relatively common in the UAE among migrant workers. Further strengthening policies and the implementation of tailored interventions are needed to prevent exposure to occupational carcinogens and, consequently, to combat occupational cancer in the UAE.

Original languageEnglish
Article number13012
JournalInternational Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health
Issue number20
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2022


  • OccIDEAS
  • UAE
  • carcinogenic exposure
  • cross-sectional survey
  • occupational cancer
  • prevalence
  • self-rated health

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pollution
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health
  • Health, Toxicology and Mutagenesis


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