Purpose of review:
In the wake of the Human Genome Project, the pace of genetic discovery has quickened. New genetic tests and other molecular technology have had immediate and wide relevance to American and European workers. These tests have the potential to provide improved workplace safety and protect workers' health, but they also carry the risk of genetic discrimination including loss of employment, promotion, insurance and health care. Ethical safeguards are necessary if the benefits are to outweigh the adverse consequences of genetics in the workplace. Recent findings: This review examines the major policy statements issued in Europe and the USA from 2000 to 2005 pertaining to genetic issues in occupational health. Recent findings stress that genetic testing can only be utilized with worker consent and that the workers should control access to genetic information. Such testing is only justified when the information is required to protect the safety of the worker or a third party. The progress of occupational genetic technology should not be permitted to shift the responsibility for a safe working environment from the employer to the employee. Genetic discrimination in all forms is neither supported scientifically nor warranted ethically. Summary: Increasingly, occupational physicians and clinicians treating workers will be faced with potentially stigmatizing genetic information and there is an urgent need for education and research to expand and implement the recommendations of major governmental and professional policy statements.
(Reprint with permission from Curr Opin Psychiatry 2005; 18:518—524)