The boundary between occupational and environmental health issues as very blurry. Often workers are the first group intensively exposed to chemicals and thus occupational injuries are often a harbinger of future environmental or consumer health issues.
As detailed in David Michael's book Doubt is their Product, corporations have made great efforts to thwart occupational and environmental health science over the years. Often the state has colluded with these efforts, asbestos being a notable Canadian example.
The Government of Canada has just announced that it will be testing about 500 substances already in consumer products over the next five years to assess their health impact. Why these substances weren’t tested prior to their introduction into consumer items remains an open question.
While this effort has earned praise from some environmental groups, the government has also taken criticism that it is “dragging its feet in terms of assessing substances that are being released into the environment by the oil and gas industry and expanding oilsands production.”
Again, it appears that workers (and those living downstream of the tarsands) will be the canaries in the coalmine. Hopefully the government will not assist industry in hiding harmful effects as they did in the case of asbestos.
-- Bob Barnetson