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Last updated at 14:50 GMT, Monday, 16 March 2009

Danish night-shifters compensated


16 March 2009

The Danish government has started paying compensation to women who have developed breast cancer following years of working night-shifts. The Scottish Trades Union Congress is calling on the UK government to take the risks of night-shifts more seriously.

Kenneth MacDonald in Glasgow

Ulla Mahnkopf told the BBC how she discovered she had breast cancer, after working for thirty years as a flight attendant

Ulla Mahnkopf has breast cancer after working for 30 years as a flight attendant


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For years evidence has been mounting that night working causes ill health, from disturbed sleep patterns to increased accidents. But these are the first government payments to women who've developed breast cancer after long spells on the night-shift. Ulla Mahnkopf, a former flight attendant, is one of them:

Ulla Mahnkopf: 'I wouldn't fly for that many years, I wouldn't, definitely not. Because it's cancer you can die from, so I'd like to stay alive.'

The Danish authorities acted following a decision by the International Agency for Research and Cancer. The agency, part of the UN World Health Organisation, now ranks night working as a probable cancer risk, just one category below known carcinogens like asbestos.

Union leaders have told Radio Scotland, the investigation programme that the UK government isn't doing enough to deal with the dangers. The Health and Safety Executive says it's commissioned its own study but its conclusions aren't expected for another two years.

Kenneth MacDonald, BBC News, Glasgow


Click to hear the words:


evidence has been mounting
there has been more and more proof
disturbed sleep patterns
when a person cannot sleep properly (e.g. suffers from insomnia) because their daily routine often changes and their body no longer 'knows' what time it is meant to rest and for how long
long spells
long periods of certain activity (here, of working night-shifts)
flight attendant
a person employed by an airline to ensure comfort and safety of passengers during flights. Synonyms: steward/stewardess, purser, member of the cabin crew
certainly, for sure
ranks night working as a probable cancer risk
considers working night-shifts to be one of the causes of cancer
substances that can cause or speed up the development of cancer in a person
if you commission someone to do something for you, you ask them to do it and pay them money; if you commission something, like an investigation or a study, you authorise it and pay people who carry it out
opinions or judgements you have after considering as much information about something as possible

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