The UN's special rapporteur on human rights and hazardous substances has drawn the attention of the organisation's General Assembly to "a particularly vicious form of exploitation: exposure to toxic substances".
In the first report of his mandate to the body, Baskut Tuncak said: "Exposure to hazardous substances is fundamentally about the right to life, non discrimination and the right to bodily integrity."
More than two million workers die every year from occupational diseases – nearly one million from toxic exposures alone, Mr Tuncak said in presenting the report in New York on 25 October. "Approximately 20 workers will have died prematurely from such exposures at work by the time I finish my opening remarks," he said.
And he highlighted the "audacious behaviour" of certain states that "go to unimaginable lengths to deny impacts on health, set permissible exposure levels that will undoubtedly cause adverse health impacts, or go as far as blaming the victims themselves for the misuse of toxic substances, even when labelled in foreign languages or symbols."
There are almost always alternatives to prevent or minimise exposure, Mr Tuncak said.
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