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Contribution of biological markers to occupational health.

Schulte PA
Am J Ind Med 1991 Oct; 20(4):435-446
A review was presented which considered the use of biological markers in occupational health research and practice. While the markers revealed great promise, their development and use will require care. It was noted that the occupational physician needs to have validated markers to use as tools in the assessment of individual workers or worker groups. Even once the validated markers are available, a variety of ethical and legal issues will arise concerning their use. Some markers will detect changes resulting from both occupational and nonoccupational exposures. Workers' compensation may be affected as one attempts to answer whether the worker's job caused or exacerbated the disease. Research with biological markers may identify groups of workers not yet clinically ill but with changes in their body chemistry which will suggest that changes in their work exposures should be considered. The individuals thus identified may be in a particularly difficult situation as workmen's compensation claims will not pay unless the worker is clinically ill and employers may refuse to hire them as they are already prone to a specific condition. The inherent biological variability between people is another important issue to consider in developing biological markers. The potential for the unethical use of biological markers has also been raised. The most common fear here is the use of markers of susceptibility that might be used in genetic screening.
NIOSH-Author; Biological-monitoring; Occupational-health; Blood-analysis; Urinalysis; Epidemiology; Worker-health; Safety-research; Genotoxic-effects; Cytotoxic-effects; Medical-screening; Screening-methods
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Journal Article
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American Journal of Industrial Medicine
Page last reviewed: September 22, 2020
Content source: National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health Education and Information Division