Exposures arising from work in high-income countries are understood to be responsible for 15 to 20 per cent of all lung cancers, 15 per cent of asthma cases, and varying proportions of many other diseases. Compensated occupational disease fatalities in Canada, while only a small proportion of the burden, have exceeded the number of traumatic fatalities for more than a decade. There is a now a growing recognition that the burden will persist if we don’t pay increased regulatory and voluntary attention to occupational disease prevention. Science can play a fundamental role in supporting efforts to prevent occupational disease.
Dr. Paul Demers, director of the Occupational Cancer Research Centre, is a leading international authority on the epidemiology of occupational cancers. In his 2018 Alf Nachemson Memorial Lecture, Dr. Demers will review the distinct research challenges in establishing a causal relationship between exposure to substances in occupational settings and the onset of disease. He will also describe the process by which important international agencies establish a scientific consensus on disease causation arising from occupational exposures and the challenges of estimating the burden of occupational disease.
High-quality scientific evidence on harmful occupational exposures is but a first step in the prevention of occupational disease. Dr. Demers will also highlight past successes in occupational disease prevention in Canada and outline his perspective on opportunities to move the occupational disease prevention agenda in Canada in the decade ahead.