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Economic development and occupational health in Latin America: new directions for public health in less developed countries.

Publication Date
  • Research Article
  • Agricultural Science
  • Communication
  • Economics
  • Medicine
  • Political Science


Occupational Health is increasingly recognized as an area of importance in Latin American public health. In the agricultural sector of the region, the concentration of arable land into large holdings devoted to the production of export crops has resulted in the formation of a large migrant work force and greatly increased use of pesticides. The manufacturing sector of Latin America has grown rapidly in size and importance. Throughout the continent, increasing numbers of workers are employed in high-hazard industrial jobs. Limited studies of occupational disease in agriculture, mining, and manufacturing suggest that there is a high prevalence of work-related illness in the populations at risk. Trade unions are generally weak, and the high rate of unemployment and underemployment render occupational health a low priority for many workers. Engineering controls and personal protective equipment are unknown or inadequate in many industries, and there is a shortage of trained occupational health professionals in the region. Steps are being taken by many Latin American governments to begin to address this problem. Needed are: increased worker and professional training; a uniform set of exposure standards; control of multinational marketing and usage of hazardous substances; the development of technical equipment appropriate for local use and increased research on occupational exposure in populations in less developed countries.

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