Transfer of Occupational Health Problems From a Developed to a Developing Country: Lessons From the Japan-South Korea Experience

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Many corporations move their manufacturing facilities or technologies from developed to developing countries. Stringent regulations have made it costly for industries to operate in developed, industrialized countries. In addition, labor costs are high in these countries, and there is increasing awareness among the general public of the health risks associated with industry. The relocation of hazardous industries to developing countries is driven by economic considerations: high unemployment, a cheaper labor force, lack of regulation, and poor enforcement of any existing regulations make certain countries attractive to business. The transfer of certain industries from Japan to Korea has also brought both documented occupational diseases and a new occupational disease caused by chemicals without established toxicities. Typical examples of documented occupational diseases are carbon disulfide poisoning in the rayon manufacturing industry, bladder cancer in the benzidine industry, and mesothelioma in the asbestos industry. A new occupational disease due to a chemical without established toxicities is 2-bromopropane poisoning. These examples suggest that counter-measures are needed to prevent the transfer of occupational health problems from a developed to a developing country. Corporate social responsibility should be emphasized, close inter-governmental collaboration is necessary and cooperation among non-governmental organizations is helpful. Am. J. Ind. Med. 52:625-632, 2009. © 2009 Wiley-Liss, Inc.

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