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Occupational nominal roll information as a data base for epidemiological research : case study and policy options Embree, Valerie C.


Evaluation of delayed health effects of work environments, or occupational health research, has become of increasing social concern. This is partly due to the question of social justice for workers harmed by unrecognized hazards and to the appreciation that many public environmental pollutants are a diluted form of a problem in the workplace where they originate and therefore are more easily identified and assessed in the occupational setting. Epidemiology is a tool for investigating causes of disease and impact of suspected hazards in human populations. A basic requirement for epidemiological research is an identifiable population for whom an inference of exposures to potential hazards can be made. In occupational health research this is often an occupational nominal roll, or list of people employed in a particular occupation or work site. This paper examines employment records in the British Columbia coastal lumber industry in an attempt to evaluate the quality of historical employment records as a data base for epidemiological research. The criteria against which they will be evaluated are those of Statistics Canada, which maintains outcome information in the form of death and cancer records. Issues of confidentiality in relation to record retention and linkage are discussed. Mechanisms and policy options for improving the fit between employment records and research needs are presented.

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