NIOSHTIC-2 Publications Search

Occupational and environmental health: twenty-first century challenges and opportunities.

Levy BS; Wegman DH; Baron SL; Sokas RK
Occupational and environmental health: recognizing and preventing disease and injury, sixth edition. Levy BS, Wegman DH, Baron SL, Sokas RK, eds. New York: Oxford University Press, 2011 Jan; :3-22
Occupational and environmental health is the multidisciplinary approach to the recognition, diagnosis, treatment, and prevention of illnesses, injuries, and other adverse health conditions resulting from hazardous environmental exposures in the workplace, the home, and the community. It is a component of medical care and of public health-what we, as a society, do collectively to ensure that the conditions in which people live and work are healthy. The twenty· first century presents many chal· lenges and opportunities for occupational and environmental health, as illustrated by the following examples: 1) A 2-year-old girl, during a routine well-child checkup, is found to have an elevated blood lead level of 20 microg/dL. Could it be related to her father's work in a smelter or the water pipes in her home? 2) A pregnant woman works as a laboratory technician. Should she change her job because of the organic solvents to which she-and her fetus-are exposed? Is it safe for her eat fish with elevated levels of mercury? 3) A middle-aged man tells his orthopedic surgeon that he is totally disabled from chronic back pain. Could it be due to his many years of heavy lifting as a construction worker? 4) A long-distance truck driver has recently had a myocardial infarction. When will he be able to safely return to work. and what kinds of tasks will he be able to perform? 5) The board of directors of a chemical company approves its production of a carcinogenic pesticide that has recently been banned in the United States. Is it ethical for the company to export it for use in developing countries? 6) The wife of a former asbestos worker has developed a pleural mesothelioma. presumably as a result of having washed her husband's work clothes for many years. Can she or her family receive any compensation? 7) An oncologist observes an unusual cluster of bladder cancer cases in a small town. Should she ask the state health department to perform an investigation? 8) An elderly man suffers from emphysema due to his long history of cigarette smoking. Should he curtail his activities during air pollution alerts? 9) Several members of a family who live next to a hazardous waste site smell odors from the site and have developed headaches. nausea, and other symptoms. What should they do? 10) An epidemiologic study has found a higher lung cancer mortality rate among workers at a chemical factory. What further research studies and preventive measures should be performed? 11) The vice president of a small tool and die company wants to promote health of company employees. What advice would you give her? These are but a few of the many occupational and environmental health challenges facing health workers, all of whom need to recognize and help prevent occupational and environmental health problems. Many health professionals will eventually work on occupational and environmental health and safety issues, and some will become occupational and environmental health and safety specialists. But almost all health professionals-in one way or another-will be involved with the recognition, diagnosis, treatment, or prevention and control of occupational and environmental illnesses and injuries.
Occupational-health; Environmental-health; Health-hazards; Injury-prevention; Disaster-prevention; Surveillance-programs; Epidemiology; Medical-monitoring; Medical-screening; Exposure-assessment; Risk-analysis; Occupations; Employee-health; Employee-exposure
Publication Date
Document Type
Levy BS; Wegman DH; Baron SL; Sokas RK
Fiscal Year
NIOSH Division
Source Name
Occupational and environmental health: recognizing and preventing disease and injury, sixth edition
Page last reviewed: November 4, 2022
Content source: National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health Education and Information Division