Academic journal article Environmental Law

Confronting Toxic Work Exposure in China: The Precautionary Principle and Burden Shifting

Academic journal article Environmental Law

Confronting Toxic Work Exposure in China: The Precautionary Principle and Burden Shifting

Article excerpt

  I. INTRODUCTION

 II. THE CHINESE STRUGGLE TO BALANCE PROSPERITY AND PROTECTION
     A. Chinese Market Reforms: A Catalyst for Protecting the
        Environment
     B. The Environmental Cost of Economic Growth in a Communist
        Country
     C. The Factory Workers' Role in China's Economic Development
        1. China Faces the Challenging Task of Correcting Its Errors
        2. The Fall of the Celebrated Socialist Worker
        3. China Attempts New Worker Protections
        4. The Workers' Reality
     D. The Current Problems of Toxic Work Exposure
        1. The Toy Industry
        2. The Shoe Industry
III. THE PRECAUTIONARY PRINCIPLE: A POSSIBLE REMEDY
     A. The Precautionary Principle Model: The Industry's Burden
        1. An Overview of the Precautionary Principle
        2. Industry Financial Responsibility
        3. The Duty to Monitor, Understand, Investigate, Inform, and
           Act
     B. The U.S. Model: The Agency's Burden
        1. The Implications of the Benzene Case
        2  OSHA's Options for Collecting Data for Toxic Work
           Exposure Standards
 IV. CONCLUSION: THE PRECAUTIONARY PRINCIPLE--A GOOD POLICY FIT
     FOR THE CHINESE

I. INTRODUCTION

This Comment addresses one of the most pressing issues the Chinese government is facing today--occupational health and safety (OHS) protections for Chinese workers--and proposes that China adopts the precautionary principle's burden-shifting model for the regulation of toxic work exposure. China has been described by scholars and business analysts as the "world's factory floor" with factories that "produce 70% of the world's toys, 70% of photocopiers, 40% of microwaves ovens and sports shoes, and increasing shares of the world's videotape and DVD equipment, cell phones, electric lighting, and semiconductors and circuit boards." (1) With this type of economic growth, there has been a major shift in the last decade in the Chinese labor market with a labor force transferring over 80 million workers from rural to urban areas. (2) The Chinese government is struggling with this shift and its effects on environmental issues particularly in the realms of OHS laws, regulations, and implementing agencies to keep up with exponential economic growth.

The Chinese government should adopt the Western European model of the precautionary principle. The problems facing Chinese workers seem to stem not from the government's lack of concern, but more from ineffective enforcement of its regulations, (3) industry greed, (4) and China's lack of transparency. (5) The Chinese government has recognized that factory workers need protection from unreasonable toxic exposure, and the Chinese leadership is attempting to follow the United States' model of toxic work exposure regulations. However, the United States' model for toxic work exposure regulation is flawed because it places the large burden of proving the harm of substances on the under-funded (6) Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA).

This Comment will argue that there are serious deficiencies in the current Chinese occupational health standards, and the consequences for falling to adopt a better model will cripple the Chinese labor market and negatively affect the global economy. The Chinese government should not follow U.S.' Occupational Safety and Health Administration's model of a cost-benefit analysis, but rather China should create OHS using the precautionary principle's burden-shifting model. The precautionary principle is based on values that support both economic viability and environmental protection. (7) For continued economic growth without compromising the environment and the lives of those who are the foundation of the economic growth, the precautionary principle is a better model to use when tackling OHS standards for toxic chemical exposures. "The precautionary principle ... serves as a 'speed bump'... ensuring that decisions about new activities are made thoughtfully and in the light of potential consequences. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.