Welcome to EPICOH 2019 in Wellington, the capital city of New Zealand

Health and the environment at work: the need for solutions

In theory occupational disease is almost entirely preventable through the reduction/elimination of causal exposures. Occupational epidemiology has made considerable progress in identifying causal risk factors in the past few decades. It has also contributed in-depth knowledge about dose-response relationships, and identified safe workplace exposure levels.

This has led in some instances, at least in developed countries and in industries with particular high risk or carcinogenic exposures, to long term trends of declining workplace exposures that have been attributed to new exposure standards and regulatory requirements. Changes in technology and production methods have also been credited with reducing exposure levels, however these are influenced significantly by the economic climate. Nonetheless, our improved understanding of major risk factors has not led to a widespread reduction in harmful workplace exposures and associated ill health.

 A few specific harmful chemicals/products (e.g. asbestos, DDT) have been banned, again at least in developed countries, but this is not an option for many common occupational exposures for which less toxic alternatives are not available. For many common exposures that have long been known to cause severe and long-term health problems, including silica, pesticides and solvents, effective occupational interventions to reduce the burden of occupational disease remain rare. For this reason, we have chosen as the theme of this conference “Health and the environment at work: the need for solutions”.