GENEVA, 28th April, 2016 (WAM) – The United Nations Special Rapporteur on human rights and hazardous substances and wastes, Baskut Tuncak, has urged States and businesses to increase efforts to prevent occupational death and disease from hazardous substances.

“Almost two million people die each year from occupational diseases according to the International Labor Organisation,” Mr. Tuncak said. “And many occupational diseases such as cancer, lung and heart disease, miscarriages, birth defects, and others health impacts result from exposures to hazardous chemicals.”

“Workers are among the most at risk,” the human rights expert warned today, on World Day for Safety and Health at Work (28 April), also known as the International Commemoration Day for Dead and Injured Workers.

The Special Rapporteur noted that while industrial accidents grab headlines, like the recent explosion at a Pemex petrochemical facility in Mexico, which killed over 30 workers, “for most consumers around the world, this is an invisible epidemic of disease and death. But, this is an epidemic that we can, and must, prevent.”

After recent country visits, the expert has reported on the recurring challenges faced by workers suffering from cancer, respiratory diseases, and heart problems brought on by toxics, who are often unable to access an effective remedy.

“Prevention and precaution must be at the center of efforts by States and businesses to protect workers’ rights,” the Special Rapporteur stressed. “Unfortunately, the death toll tells a different story.”