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Genetics and occupational safety and health

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Commentary on the editorial by Schulte (see page 717)

In occupational health much has been made of the potential impact of the genetic revolution on worker health.1 Schulte2 and OEM are right to ask the direct questionwhat hath this wrought? In the accompanying editorial Schulte acknowledges that although genetics has not yet had a major impact upon occupational health and safety, with continued research critical questions raised by this type of information will need to be addressed and answered.2 Has what we posited 20 years ago to be a relatively straightforward march toward understanding genetics and integrating these data into exposure-related disease susceptibility become so very complex? Just how important is this issue and how far away are we from genetics having any palpable effect on worker health?

The general approach to the hazardous environment can be characterised by (1) problem recognition, (2) evaluation of the environment, and (3) application of controls (including prevention and hazard elimination). This simple guiding paradigm has stood the test of time. …

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