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Abstract

The current rapidly growing interest in environmental justice is both timely and important. Occupational health is an integral part of assuring environmental justice. Concrete examples of environmental inequity leading directly to unequal health status can be found in occupational health literature and among the patients of occupational health clinics which serve populations that include low wage workers and workers of color. The toxic properties and health effects of many environmental contaminants were originally discovered in workplace settings where workers were repeatedly exposed to high doses of such contaminants. In the future, clinical occupational medicine, occupational epidemiology, occupational toxicology, and occupational health education will undoubtedly play key roles in addressing many environmental justice issues both inside and outside the workplace. Over the past decade, uneven distribution of community exposure to environmental toxins has been well documented. There is incontrovertible evidence that toxic waste sites are preferentially located closer to communities of color and low income communities. Exposures to urban air pollution, lead, and other environmental toxins tend to be more common in these communities as well. This paper will focus on the need for strategies to guarantee environmental justice in the workplace. This paper will also explore the potential for the scientific and medical occupational health fields to contribute to solving environmental health problems outside the workplace.

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