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Environ Health Insights. 2008 Sep 23;1:45-50.

Environmental and occupational exposures in immigrant health.

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  • 1Harvard School of Public Health, Boston, MA.


Immigrants comprise vulnerable populations that are frequently exposed to a multitude of environmental and occupational hazards. The historical context behind state and federal legislation has helped to foster an environment that is particularly hostile toward caring for immigrant health. Current hazards include toxic exposures, air and noise pollution, motor vehicle accidents, crowded living and work environments with inadequate ventilation, poor sanitation, mechanical injury, among many others. Immigrants lack the appropriate training, materials, health care access, and other resources to reduce their exposure to preventable environmental and occupational health risks. This dilemma is exacerbated by current anti-immigrant sentiments, miscommunication between native and immigrant populations, and legislation denying immigrants access to publicly funded medical care. Given that current health policy has failed to address immigrant health appropriately and political impetus is lacking, efforts should also focus on alternative solutions, including organized labor. Labor unions that serve to educate workers, survey work environments, and defend worker rights will greatly alleviate and prevent the burden of disease incurred by immigrants. The nation's health will benefit from improved regulation of living and workplace environments to improve the health of immigrants, regardless of legal status.


environmental; exposure; hazard; immigrant; occupational

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