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Prudent management of minors with occupational exposures to hazardous agents: the radiation protection “standard of care”
  1. Robert J Emery1,
  2. Sharon P Cooper2
  1. 1University of Texas-Houston Health Science Center, Environmental Health and Safety and School of Public Health
  2. 2University of Texas-Houston Health Science Center, School of Public Health
  1. Correspondence to:
 Dr R J Emery, University of Texas-Houston Health Science Center, Environmental Health and Safety, PO Box 20036, Houston, Texas 77225, USA.

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For adolescents under the age of 18, holding a job is a beneficial experience, not only for the income, but also for the discipline, education, and skills acquired.1 although no accurate statistics are available that describe the actual numbers of adolescent workers, the US Bureau of Labor Statistics estimated that at least 4 million minors were legally registered as employees in the country in 1988.2 This number was acknowledged to be a significant underestimation of the actual number of working minors because the data did not consider agricultural work, nor the common practice of employing minors without official reporting to avoid payment of taxes. Minors hold jobs in virtually every major sector of the economy, with retail trade, service industries, manufacturing, agriculture, and construction being the settings most often involved.' The potential health and safety hazards associated with these work settings range from operating motor vehicles or powered equipment, to exposures to toxic chemicals, potentially infectious agents, or sources of radiation. Nearly 70 deaths and an estimated 37 405 job related injuries requiring emergency room treatment affected working adolescents 14 through 17 years of age in the US in 1993.3 These unfortunate events are thought to be caused by lack of experience or maturity, inadequate training, or inappropriately designed safety equipment.1,4,5

Opportunities for the induction of illnesses in working minors also exist, and, given the physiological and psychological differences between this population and adults, the risks associated with occupational exposures to toxic substances is likely to be heightened. Unfortunately, reliable data on the health effects of occupational exposures among minors are not currently available.6 So, in recognition of these special risks, safety professionals should consider the implementation of a set of formal practices for the protection of working minors. The parents of working …

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