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Public Health Rep. 2005 Nov-Dec;120(6):665-73.

Child labor and musculoskeletal disorders: the Pelotas (Brazil) epidemiological survey.

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Takemi Program in International Health and Occupational Health Program, Harvard School of Public Health, Boston, MA, USA.



[corrected] This article describes the prevalence of musculoskeletal pain in several anatomic sites in children and teens, and investigates, while adjusting for potential confounders, the association between musculoskeletal pain and back pain and the following: age, gender, sports practice, use of computer/video games/television, school attendance, intensity of involvement in household domestic activities, care of other children, care of sick/elderly family members, work activities, and workloads.


We conducted a cross-sectional study interviewing 3,269 children aged 10-17 years in the low-income areas of Pelotas, Brazil.


The prevalence of pain in the neck, knee, wrist or hands, and upper back exceeded 15%. Workers in manufacturing had a significantly increased risk for musculoskeletal pain (prevalence ratio [PR]=1.31) and for back pain (PR=1.69), while workers in domestic service had 17% more musculoskeletal pain and 23% more back pain than nonworkers. Awkward posture (PR=1.15) and heavy physical work (PR=1.07) were associated with musculoskeletal pain, while monotonous work (PR=1.34), awkward posture (PR=1.31), and noise (PR=1.25) were associated with back pain.


Musculoskeletal pain is common among working children and teens. Knowledge of occupational risk factors can support actions to restructure work conditions to reduce or eliminate childhood exposure to hazardous conditions. Our results suggest that strategies to prevent musculoskeletal disorders in child workers should be developed.

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