An examination of occupational health research issues relevant for developing countries was presented, with specific examples of research in China. The importance of occupational health in developing countries as well as the challenges faced were discussed. Particular challenges cited were the population growth over the past 4 decades, and the anticipated doubling of the world's population during the next 50 years, with a disproportionate amount of the increase occurring in the developing countries. Industrial transformation in these countries also created challenges, with hazards due to the introduction of modern technology, often accompanied by a lack of adequate occupational safety and health regulations, and compounded by poor socioeconomic conditions. Many factors (financial, informational, technical, personnel, institutional, political) have blocked the effective implementation of occupational health research. Quality control may often be an issue in studies done in developing countries. Conducting occupational health research in developing countries may offer some unique advantages, with conditions in China cited as an example. In China the range of exposure levels to many common hazards varies widely, offering an opportunity to examine dose response relationships and determine threshold values; diet varies greatly across the seasons, allowing for an opportunity to examine the interactions between nutrition and occupational hazards; and populations and employment are relatively stable, making studies of chronic effects possible. Two studies were cited as examples, an 11 year longitudinal occupational health study of textile workers in Shanghai, which resulted in the Chinese government reducing the permissible exposure limit for cotton dust by tenfold in the mid 1980s; and a population based respiratory epidemiologic study in Beijing, which led to several important scientific findings concerning the exposure response relationship between indoor and outdoor air pollution, and respiratory symptoms and pulmonary function. The authors recommend that multidisciplinary and international collaboration be encouraged and expanded.
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